Remember that there are at least two sides to every poem. The one you’re taking to write the poem, and the one that your reader takes after reading your poem. You only have choices about your side of the poem. Think of these so called sides as parts or elements of a shape, rather than that one side has to win, or that one side or the other can win. Each side is a dysemtric compliment of the other.
Words are sound containers; bits and strings of sound, that when strung together in a certain way produce what some readers will call poetry. The sound of the type of poetry that you are writing is its form or context, think sonnet, think rap, think sestina or what a beat poet might write; each of these have signature shapes of context. Learn the rules of each of these, before you become so bold as to break with the traditions of them. Once you have learned the so called rules, break them as freely as a criminal.
Tend to your metaphors. Think of them as pearls outside of their shells rather than shells without pearls. Metaphors can take a bit of abuse, and are in fact more durable than pearls, but if you append too much expectation to their ability to carry your poem, then you may lose something valuable, let’s call it communication, in the process.
Poems have a bi-polar kind of magic. There is the magic that happens when you create a poem, and there is the magic that occurs when you edit a poem. It’s hard to weight one or the other of these with more importance. Let’s just state for the record that a quality poem cannot be competently created if any of the magic is missing.
There is only one kind of critic really worth listening to about your poetry, and that’s the kind of critic who at least gets where you were trying to go with your poem in the first place – who expresses an understanding of your poems sentiment. This person is dear, and should be granted the grace of your ear, after all they have taken time with your heartfelt outpouring, and according a person like this your respect may make you the one thing that you always want to be – a better poet much quicker. Dismiss or ignore the kinds of positive commentators who never challenge your work, who more often than not tell you that you are the greatest. You deserve better. Good critics as much as they can get under your skin are invaluable as teachers.
Read as much poetry as you can. Read poems that are outside of your chosen voice. Find 5 poems that you love and 5 poems that you can’t stand. Try and figure out what you like about the poems or what you don’t like about the poems. Write a positive or negative review about each of the poems. Do this as a private act, for the purpose of learning how to understand poetry better.
Get out of your comfort zones. If you always write at night, try writing in the morning. If you require silence to write, turn on a radio, or go to a busy cafe. If you always write using a computer, write with pen and paper. Do this as an experiment.
Before sending a poem to a publisher, if you have not done so already, recite your poem out loud. Experiment with different pitches, and speeds. Test the poem, shake the poem, let the poem mature by leaving it in a drawer before you review, rewrite and then submit it.
Write each of your poems as if you were feeding the world a delectable piece of candy, the consumption of which will cause an expansion within the reader of a mysterious profundity. Face the idea that poets are teachers soberly.
Remember there is only one cause for the end of creativity, and that’s you taking your last breath. There is no such thing as writers block, there is only your fear of being unimportant.