"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to write a good poem (by one who never has)

A poet ought to choose his title gainfully,
Abstract nouns are often viewed as trite.
Editors view ‘Winter’ most disdainfully,
And ‘Love’ will doubtless be dismissed as shyte.

Check each word to make sure it is vital.
Condense! they cry, not meaning size of font.
(Except of course when thinking up a title –
That can be as wordy as you want.)

Make sure that the tangled tale you’re spinning
Has one obscure word, plus hapes of slang.
Never start a poem at the beginning
and always try to let the ending hang.

small letters should be used to start a sentence
capitals, it seems, are quite passé
(if you’ve already done this, show repentance –
no need to put your caps lock on today)

Do not write of dying or dementia,
Of unrequited love or fading youth.
And you will not have been the first, I venture,
To stumble on some elemental truth.

Better to avoid the formulaic,
Free versers often can and will bear grudges.
And ‘ware, lest language used is o’er-archaic,
‘Tis something that will not win o’er yon judges.

Simplicity of course, is indefensible,
The modus operandi of the Devil.
Better that your ode’s incomprehensible
Than understood on just a single level.

Throw in some allusion to mythology,
Ideally as obscure as you can cite.
Ancient Greco-Hebrew ornithology
Will have the critics purring with delight.

Above all else though, heed this final warning
and don’t commit the worst poetic crime.
If you must poeticise, some dreadful morning,
God forbid you ever make it rhyme.


  1. What a beautiful companion to Rachel Fox's post today.

    And I'm on to you. What have you done with the Watercats?

  2. I'm with you on the (greek) mythology there Pete, why on earth would you put anything about greek mythology in a poem, other than to show you know all about greek mythology?
    Smarty pants methinks!

  3. I love/cry/laugh/angst over this one, successful at failure,

  4. I am good at cryptic crosswords which indicates a passably good vocabulary and an equally developed ability to manipulate meanings but like you, I find much modern poetry such a challenge I often feel a hoax coming on!

  5. Could you print this off for me and frame it for Christmas? Wait, I probably wouldn't get it until Easter, so I better do it myself. This was as good as it gets.
    The line about mythology is just so dead on! I have come across so many poems with allusions to such and I ask myself, do they really know all about that? Have they read Homer and Virgil and the rest, or are they just bee-essing? It can't be proven, in any event.

    Yes. I must do this one up in a script-font and put it up over my office desk in the new house when we move.