Guest Post: How To Become A Better Poet Without Emptying Your Wallet For An MFA by Writer’s Relief


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There are many ways to improve your poetry skills. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on an MFA in poetry. You could enroll in classes at your local community college. You could even take classes online. But there are also ways to become a better poet without emptying your wallet! Here’s how you can improve your poetry-writing skills without spending a fortune.

6 Totally Free Ways To Become A Better Poet

Listen to yourself. Sometimes, a poem begins with a spark of curiosity, intense feeling, or the desire to express a thought not easily captured or explained by prose. By tuning in to your own thoughts, you’ll be able to effectively capitalize on your poetic urges and instincts. Cultivating deep self-awareness is the first step to becoming a better poet.

Get a library card. Your teachers may have guided your poetry reading choices to include well-known and canonical literary figures, but you may be more intrigued and challenged by the poetry your peers are publishing. To find examples of excellent contemporary poetry, start by reading literary magazines.

Connect with other poets. Although it is entirely possible to write amazing poetry without ever speaking to another human being about the craft, you may find that your poetry improves if you reach out to others who share your passion. Join a local poetry writing group. Attend an open mic night in your area. Buy poetry books at reading events — and talk to the poets!

Volunteer at a literary journal. One of the best ways to learn what makes a good poem is to read poetry submissions that run the gamut from excellent to awful. Reach out to literary magazine editors and offer to volunteer to read submissions. Although it may be easy to distinguish between a poem that’s obviously competent and a poem that’s terrible, the line separating “good” from “bad” becomes blurrier when you reach the highest levels of talent. By volunteering, you’ll not only start to understand what distinguishes a great poem from an even better one — you’ll also cultivate a deeper sense of your own poetic preferences.

Schedule time for writing. Some people believe that the art of writing is essentially autodidactic — that the core work of learning to write happens when a writer is alone. Writers can be guided by good teachers toward a deeper understanding of their own talents and preferences, but it is the writer’s job to forge his or her own unique way. Every time you sit down to write, you are both teacher and student. Although you may not be able to fork out thousands of dollars for a poetry MFA, your dedication of time, focus, and energy can still improve your poetry.

Submit poetry for publication to reputable literary magazines. Don’t let a fear of believing that your poetry is “not good enough” hold you back from making submissions. By submitting your poetry to literary journal editors, you can test the waters to discover how your writing will be received. Initially, you may get a lot of rejections. But if you know how to interpret your rejection letters, even a nice “no thank-you” can be incredibly instructive. You might also get some personal feedback to help you hone your skills.

One Final Warning For Poets Who Want To Improve Their Craft

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will take advantage of a poet’s natural enthusiasm. Poetry author mills, “fake” poetry contests, and even some poetry writing conferences often look like excellent opportunities on paper — but they’re actually profit-generating machines that don’t carry much weight in professional publishing circles. While some legitimate literary journals must now charge minimal admin fees in order to stay afloat, always do your research before you write that check.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

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