Over the last 6 months, I’ve written roughly four hundred poems, and I feel like I’ve learned something (God, I hope I learned something; otherwise, I really have wasted a lot of time writing poetry.) I’ve seen lots of these tips on writing, and some of them are pure bullshit (i.e. “the timer method” or “write a villanelle today, and a sonnet tomorrow”)

Let me tell you something, and please, if you disagree, let me know. The villanelle is DEAD. The sonnet is DEAD. Do you know who your audience is if you write one of these poems? Someone who is trying to get you to read their villanelle and/ or sonnet and/ or haiku. Haiku is great as catharsis. Don’t get me wrong. Haikus can be lots of fun. But they’re just small words.

No one wants to read your nature poem, unless your nature poem says something that’s not been said about nature. Don’t tell me about how nature’s beauty fades. Robert Frost kind of owns that with “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

I don’t want to hear how the clouds look like pillows in the sky. Or marshmallows. Even cigarette smoke has been said. Tell me the clouds look like albino mustard gas. Weird, huh? At least it’s interesting.

Thou shall not speaketh like this. Poetry has to, has to, has to be honest, so unless you’re Shakespeare who somehow caught a hold of a time machine, do not talk like Shakespeare. Talk like Jake, talk like Lucy. Poetry is not pretty words. Poetry is words that you think need to be said. That’s about as terse as I can get. If no one cares what you have to say, then it’s probably not poetry.

Which brings me to rhyming. Rhyming can be really great. Just know this: your job as a poet is to trick people into reading poetry. This is a general idea of what people think of when they think of poetry:

What sun rises on the east

Tis the eyes of lovers in love

What wretched soul bequeaths the beast

That crushes the soul of fragile little dove

It’s cryptic. It’s cliche. It’s all naturey. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “bequeath” before. It’s overdramatic, and to get back to my main point for now, it rhymes.

If you’re gonna rhyme, you’re taking on a bigger challenge. Plus-sides of rhyming: it can be catchy, it’s is more musical, you can play with putting ideas into the words you rhyme (i.e. mate and hate (contrast or juxtaposition)) What you’re not doing is thinking about who is going to read this. This is why people say poetry is dead. Poetry needs to become a part of its times. We get more real as a society, more honest. That’s all we’ve ever done. We break down barriers, and I think when you write like a 16th century poet you lie to your reader. I admire rhyme. I wrote rhyme a long time, but if you want to be heard, talk (or yell) more like you do, and less like Francis McFancypants, Esq.

You have a rhythm. Everything you say has a rhythm. And believe it or not, it is a challenge to write the way you talk. To find the poetry in the words that press down on that god damn keyboard. Think about the way you type even. You type faster and slower. That’s one of the reasons I’m an advocate for typing poems. It’s rhythmic. It’s like playing the alphabet piano. It helps. You find. Your internal rhythm. Your pace – your flow – the way you truly. Speak.

It’s a bummer coming on here. Though there are some great poets on wordpress, tumblr, facebook, you have to filter through massive hills of shit to find them.

Read modern day poets. Go to a local poetry slam. Even better, don’t find your poetry in poetry; find it in music, on billboards, in other people’s words. I can’t tell you how much poetry I hear people say everyday of my life. My sister the other day said “We are not infants in business suits, though…” in casual conversation, and I knew there was a poem there. That she meant more than just an obscure reference to an episode of Rugrats we watched when were little kids. It was amazing. It made my day.

More than anything – write. Write shitty poetry. Shitty poetry is warm up rounds for the good poems. Trust me. I can see the patterns in my books. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get at what you’re getting at.

Also, before I misguide someone there, think less. If you try to be deep, you are going to sound like you’re trying to be deep. I had this idea I written in my phone “Life is the murderer. Death is just waiting for you on the other side.” I really like that thought, BUT it’s too “profound”. It needed to be humanized, rationalized, and a little bit bastardized. I ended up writing a poem on it, two months later, might I add, where it came out:

life. shit, man. life is your friend sometimes. death
is always waiting by the phone for you to call and
hear me, you. when life stabs you in the back. when
she sleeps with your best friend and turns off your
alarm so you’re late for work. when life cancels your
insurance before driving your car into the first brick
wall she can find. when she strikes you with sodium
penethol (truth serum) just before your lifetime achievement
speech and calls your mom and tells her you murdered someone

and the cops catch on and they break into your house
in the middle of the night and arrest you for the crime
that life committed, hear you, me, brother. death will be
the friend who takes a taxi to the penitentiary to come
and bail your sorry ass out.

Be down to earth. Every poet is trying to become a god, when the whole point of poetry is to utilize it to become a human being. Consider your audience, and I don’t just mean that in a high school English teacher way. I mean that in a “learn to empathize and sympathize and apathize with everyone, so you know how to speak to them” kind of way.

Write everyday. Bring a notebook with you. Send text messages of poem ideas to yourself. Write down advertisements you see. The other day, I was driving to work and on the radio, there came a flash flood warning, at one point the man on the radio said “Do Not Drown.” Whoa. There’s a poem there. Everyone can hear that flash flood warning in their head. They can hear the baseball announcer’s voice; they can hear the preacher at the funeral; they can hear the preacher at the gospel church; they can hear the 1950’s ad for Brillo pads; take advantage of your multiple personality disorder.

I have a lot more to say, but I’m gonna stop, thus marking this part one. Please leave me any questions or comments, and I will include good questions in my next post on the subject. In the mean time, I dare you to write who you are, and how you are. Write the whiskey that’s burning through your liver, and write the spit that’s stuck underneath your tongue.


P.S. I think this poem speaks to this subject a bit, too.




step one
look in the mirror
you owe it to yourself
to have one more conversation with the person who knows you best
we have this inability to truly move on from anything
without saying goodbye


*note: when setting one’s self one fire,
i suggest you make an itemized list
of the necessary items
these things take preparation

1 costco-sized bottle of lighter fluid
1 lighter, any brand, may supplement matches for classic effect

in addition to these two quintessential items
1 should make any necessary preparations
to make sure others do not get burned

step two
if you are seriously dedicated to setting yourself on fire
buy a notebook in whatever color you prefer
locate a pen and

make a list of pros and cons
pro: dramatic, incendiary death at a time and place of your choice
con: serious burns, death (debatably a pro or con), this is an irreversible decision

it’s just the responsible thing to do to discuss this with your friends and family in vivid detail

note: sometimes we burn in pairs, holding hands, as the world watches

step three
relocate pen and pad
and write a letter to everyone you care to inform of your decision
there are several sources in written and digital form to assist you
with proper letter writing format
essentially you can decide whether it should be formatted as a business or personal letter
tell your mother you love her
tell your brothers and sisters you’ll miss them
tell your stepfather fuck off
tell your ex-lovers it’s all their fault
tell yourself “i’ll go to heaven
or i’ll just be dirt in the ground
or i’ll be reborn as a phoenix
or i’ve accepted the fact i will go to hell”
i can’t tell you which is the truth
but it’s still worth considering
tell everyone you care to tell
you’ll be setting yourself on fire

step four
dress for the occasion
the tricky part is
if you wear your favorite band shirt
it will get ruined
and that band may get the impression they were involved in this decision
when you and i both know never hearing them again was on your cons list

note: before moving forward, it is important to consider who will be the one to sweep up your ashes.

step five
drench yourself in lighter fluid
it is more difficult than you would think to do this by yourself
it will be cold
do not be conservative with the fluid
you only get one chance to do this right

note: as i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil

step six
i suggest counting your final breaths
you can countdown from 10 or 3
essentially it’s up to you, any number is okay
but i do suggest you do this
these are the last breaths you’ll ever breathe
make them count
breathe slow
close your eyes
escape from reality for a second
trust me though
these breaths are worth counting

step seven
click the lighter

step eight
your final breath

step nine
the last thing you’ll ever see

step ten

step ten
touch the flame to the fluid
on fire
you will burn until you burn out
but first you will have a short time
to relish in how it feels
to live in one thousand degree celsius temperatures
eighteen hundred thirty degrees fahrenheit
you will burn
and you will be missed
no longer engulfed in reality
you will burn and burn
ashes to ashes
dust to dust
flight 11 to l.a.x.
first degree
second degree
third degree
like wordstogether
bones’ dust
splayed across the earth
charred debris
in an urn
you will burn
until you burn out
you will be missed.