Category Archives: Poetry

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


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

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.

NaPoWriMo2019 #24

Latin_dictionary by Dr. Marcus Gossler

Photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler





NaPoWriMo2019 #23

NaPoWriMo2019 #23

The Dog I Never Wanted

You weren’t supposed to be my dog.
You were supposed to be Daddy’s dog.

After Rudi left for the great dog bed in the sky,
I told Daddy we’d have no more dogs
Because I was tired of caring for them.

Daddy promised that this time he would
Walk the dog and take him to the vet
All by himself.

I said no.

When Christmas came, the only thing Daddy wanted was a dog.

And I wanted to go to Israel.

So we went to the pound.
I couldn’t stand the cacophony of pitbull barking, so
I sat and waited while Daddy searched for a dachshund that
Reminded him of Rudi.
He couldn’t find one.
But he saw you, huddled in the corner
Of your cage, and he was overcome with
Mercy and love.
The attendant wrapped you in a soft
Blanket and we held you in the exercise yard.
Your big eyes spoke to us of fear and loss
As you shivered in our arms,
Tragic and adorable at the same time.
I gave my blessing for you to become
Daddy’s dog
With Daddy in charge of all your care.


When we brought you home, you
Peed and pooped on the floor and
Hid under the bed.
And there you stayed all night.
We tried moving the
Bed to extract you, but you
Continued to position yourself
Just out of our reach.

The next morning we called a
Dog whisperer, who whispered until he could
Slip a finger under your collar. I
Withdrew you from your haven and
Deposited you in the carrier which
Became your safety zone.
For many days, you never left the carrier
Without a leash clipped onto your harness.
And whenever you were placed before its open door,
You were only too happy to hustle inside.

But you never let Daddy take you
Out of the carrier. You
Growled and wedged yourself
‘Way in the back,
Your teeth bared and ready to nip at
The hand that wanted only to
Stroke and comfort you.

You wouldn’t allow Daddy to lead you
With the leash. You’d grip the floor with
Your claws. You wouldn’t eat from the food dish
Daddy prepared for you until he was
Out of your sight. But my presence you required.

You would not go outside to potty unless
I opened the door.

A friend told me, “Chihuahuas choose one human.
Guess what. You’re it.”

Chihuahua, NaPoWriMo

No! No! This wasn’t what I agreed to!
I lobbied to take you to a no-kill shelter or
A Chihuahua rescue organization.
Daddy negotiated to keep you.
“Remember how terrified he was at the pound?
We can’t let him go back to that.
At least people love him here
And there are no pitbulls barking.”

Daddy put a dog bed next to my desk,
And here you live out your days,
Your ears pivoting like radar sensors.
Every couple of hours we go out in the
Backyard, and when it’s time for bed I
Put you to sleep in your carrier.
You are my constant companion.

Chihuahua, NaPoWriMo

I never wanted you, Ralphie,
But I can’t imagine living without you now.
Good boy.



NaPoWriMo2019 #16


The Removal of Wrinkles

The process requires a heat source with a handle.
Also, a flat surface.
And the item from which the wrinkles will be removed. (In my experience, this is most often a man’s garment, one which usually covers the upper body.)
You will remove the wrinkles from one section of the item at a time.
Place the item on the flat surface with the section located optimally.
Be sure to smooth the section with your hands before you apply the heat source.
Gently glide the heat source across the section, guiding the heat source with the handle.
When the section is free of wrinkles, reposition the item
so that the next section is optimally located on the surface.
Repeat the steps of the process: position, smooth, and glide
until the entire item is devoid of wrinkles.


iron and ironing board; how to iron a shirt


NaPoWriMo2019 #13



What If

What if
What if dogs are God’s instruments of karma
Paying you back for all the good (or crap) you have ever done?

What if you could make beautiful instruments out of cast-off items from a landfill?

What if you tried really, really hard—could you fly from your roof to the supermarket?
Could you swim across the ocean?
Could you jump to Mars?

What if you added glitter to brown paint? Could you paint a mud puddle reflecting the light of the sun?

What if you brewed leaves in hot water and drank it like tea? Would it taste good? Would it cure cancer?

What if you walked backwards three times around your best friend? Would it make her forget the mean thing you said to her five minutes ago?

What if you built a skyscraper with titanium beams instead of steel? Could you build it into a spiral instead of a column?

What if people smiled at everyone they passed?

What if you buried a dollar in the ground and a money tree sprouted up from it?

What if you could hold an idea in your hand?



NaPoWriMo2019 #12



Rings for My Daughters

My first-born, my princess.
Don’t tell your sisters, but you have always been my favorite.
And because you are my favorite, I have a priceless gift for you.
When Dad told his family he wanted to marry me,
His mother and his two aunts each gave him a ring.
One held an emerald, and the others, multiple diamonds.
Dad couldn’t choose one to be my engagement ring;
Instead, he designed a setting with the emerald
Surrounded by ten diamonds.
No woman has ever had an engagement ring like this;
It’s unique in all the world, and now it’s yours.

My middle child, my sunshine.
Don’t tell your sisters, but I’ve always loved you best.
And because I love you best, I have a priceless gift for you.
You know your grandmother called you Precious
Because that’s what you were to her.
When I was a teenager, my mother gave me an aquamarine ring
That she brought with her from Germany
When she and Opa emigrated to the United States.
Because she loved that ring, it was precious to me.
It just seems right that I give Oma’s ring to her precious granddaughter.

My baby, my cupcake.
Don’t tell your sisters, but you are the light of my life.
And because you are my light, I have a priceless gift for you.
When I was in college, I fell in love with a saxophone player.
I thought we would get married.
He gave me an amethyst ring. I thought it was my engagement ring.
But then he changed. He became distant. He stopped telling me he loved me.
I changed. I didn’t like that college anymore and transferred
To one closer to home.
He missed me and wanted me back and wrote to tell me
He was coming to see me over spring break.
But by that time I’d met your Dad, and I knew he was The One.
I wrote the saxophone player to stay home.
I never wore the ring again. But now I’d like you to have it.



NaPoWriMo2019 #11



My childhood in a small town consisted
of playing outside and wandering around the neighborhood,
sometimes with friends and sometimes alone.
The town’s volunteer fire department and first aid squad
were summoned by siren.
My mother’s rule was:
when you hear the siren, come home so I know
you’re okay; then you can go out again.


My husband and I raised our children
in the city. They were not free to wander. Times had changed;
outside was not safe without adult supervision.
I rarely permitted them even to walk to school.
One summer the kids and I attended family church camp.
The children longed to wander in the woods.
I tried to keep my eyes on all of them, telling them
they had to stay within my vision. The elders advised,
“Let them go. They’re safe here.”
Releasing them to wander was one of the hardest things I’d ever done,
but it was the first time they experienced the freedom that
characterized my own childhood. As I walked in the forest,
I stumbled upon my own kids scrambling over boulders or
hanging from high tree branches. I experienced paradoxical
emotions of joy and panic at not being in control.
Back home we reverted to the usual rules. Better safe than sorry.


Now retired, my children grown, I often wander alone
through vast desert mountain parks. Though many others hike the trails,
they are only within my sight momentarily;
they walk so much faster than I, and the rises and dips and
the vegetation hide them from view.
My husband and my children express concern
over my solitude in the wilderness, and of course,
their point is valid; but I feel safe and content as
I wander.