There’s a misconception going around that poetry is something. This misconception is so pervasive that it takes on many, many forms. Some people, usually ones that are in 3rd grade, think that poems have to rhyme. Other myths are that poems have to be about lofty topics and use flowery language. Some people believe that poems have to follow set formats or strict rules. It always seems that when I talk to someone about poetry, they tell me that they want to write it, but they don’t feel that they can because poetry equals this one thing and they don’t feel that they can do this one thing. I’m here to tell you that poetry is not one thing. It’s anything. And that’s the fun part.
Now there are poems that have rules. Sonnets, for example, follow exact rhyme schemes and use iambic pentameter. If you want to write a sonnet, you have to follow the rules. But this is just one form of poetry. And sometimes, following rules can be really fun.
However, there’s poetry called free verse that uses no rules at all. It doesn’t have to rhyme, there’s no iambic pentameter, there’s no required line length, nothing. You just write out your thoughts and see what happens. I use free verse a lot because sometimes my thoughts can’t be contained in a poem with rules. I need to make statements in long sentences and short snippets and questions and ponderings. A lot of my poetry is free verse because that’s the only way for my feelings to be accurately described.
There’s even something called a prose poem. What separates a prose poem from a regular prose, as far as I can tell, is whatever the person who wrote it says.
As far as the content; I chuckle whenever someone tells me that poetry has to be grand and eloquent and use a linguistic style that Shakespeare would have been proud of. One of the best love poems I’ve ever written contains two F-bombs, a “goddamn”, and the phrase “can’t even”. There’s nothing noble about it, but it’s a testament to the raw emotion that I was feeling when I wrote it. In a way, the casual language that I use only makes the content stronger, because it’s being used to talk about a subject that has for centuries been considered very elevated. And taking such a basic approach to it works.
But really, there is no reason not to start writing poetry. Poetry doesn’t require exact laws or rules in order to be poetry and that’s part of what makes poetry so fun; anything goes! Get out there and write.