Poetry is an art form that allows the artist a great deal of creative freedom. However, there are some mistakes a poet might want to avoid making. 

Here are 6 things that poets should never do in their poetry: 

  1. Writing in a vacuum.
  2. Reluctance to put in the work. 
  3. Arrogance and an inflated sense of self-confidence. 
  4. Reacting badly to criticism.
  5. Lazy editing.
  6. Lack of direction. 

Let’s take a deeper look at these 6 mistakes, how they come about, and how to make sure that you as a poet learn how to get past them. 

1. Writing in a Vacuum

Let’s say that you have a lot of ideas, and some of these may be good. Brilliant, even. But this can only happen if you read other artists’ work, consume writing whenever possible, analyze the work of other poets, and draw inspiration from them. 

Writing in a vacuum is a surefire way to end up with stale material, as no idea is totally original

Maintaining the puritan idea that your divine inspiration will be ruined by studying and taking notes from other poets is your ego getting the better of you. You can never learn enough or grow enough as an artist to stop and only produce instead of produce and consume in equal amounts. 

Find a community and a wealth of inspiration from this literary and poetry magazine list

2. Reluctance To Put In the Work

Good art makes you feel something, and writing real, raw, authentic poetry is hard work. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get a master’s degree in English or methodically studying the different possible rhyme schemes for your poems

But you still need to reevaluate, edit, confront your own mistakes and biases, actively break free of bad habits in your writing, and acknowledge that you can’t just write whatever springs to mind and publish it. 

Getting to a point where you’re happy with your work may take longer than expected, and shying away from the hard parts won’t benefit you in the end. It may take years for you to be satisfied with your work, or it may take less. 

It all depends on how much you commit to growing as a poet and honing your craft. 

Coursera offers a free poetry workshop for aspiring poets looking for a way to improve their writing, advised by a professional. 

3. Arrogance and an Inflated Sense of Self-Confidence

Something you’ll notice if you read a lot (which, as a writer, you should be doing as much as possible) is that some writers really like reading their own work. 

There’s nothing wrong with admiring your artistry, but developing an ego is a one-way ticket to ruin, especially if you’re starting out as a poet. An artist has the monumental task of constantly reflecting on themselves and their writing, which is a necessary learning experience. 

If you think you’re already doing everything perfectly, you’ll stunt your own growth and set yourself even further back. 

4. Reacting Badly to Criticism

Art is subjective, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking their idea of good poetry is universal. Even the greats were subjected to some pretty scathing criticism

This is another way your pride and ego can stop you from growing. It can make you believe that your work will be an instant hit with everyone or cause a month-long brooding session whenever someone calls your work bland. 

The way you react to criticism and adversity is everything, as it says a great deal about your character. You can either choose to grow as a creator or remain obstinate and risk putting yourself in an echo chamber. 

5. Lazy Editing

Editing your writing is a ruthless process which requires you to cut the parts you like but that don’t contribute much. 

You may need to cut down your descriptions to avoid becoming too wordy, find synonyms to avoid repetition, evaluate things like rhyme scheme and tempo, or undertake other things as part of the long editing process. 

As a writer, it’s vital to have a goal in mind, something you ultimately want to achieve with your poem. That way, editing and cutting will be far more manageable because you can identify which bits don’t contribute to this goal. 

If you struggle to make these decisions, you should get a second opinion, a third, and possibly even a fourth. Communicate with other writers and editors, seek advice from fellow poets, and help them with their writing when they require guidance. 

Here are 24 places to submit poetry online if you’re looking to build a network or join a community of fellow writers. Most of these are magazines and journals, so give it a look if you want to branch out and start making your work public. 

Even if you find editing easy and think you’ve got the hang of it, we often miss the big picture because we’re too close to it. Seeking out help with editing and refining your poetry will do a world of good and will fastrack you to get published

For more information on editing poems, take a look at Magma Poetry’s rules for editing poems, ranging from advice on conciseness to emotional resonance. 

6. Lack of Direction

Sometimes inspiration strikes up a flame in you that you have to put to paper. 

Just putting down whatever comes to mind can produce outstanding results, but sometimes you’ll want to dig back into that treasure chest and get refining!

This is something that reading a lot helps with immensely. Drawing ideas from already-existing work can help you decide what you’re passionate about, ideologically and structurally. 

If you struggle with creating writing that has a story, you might find this masterclass on narrative poetry helpful.

Categories: Poetry

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.