Judge’s Report – October 2015 – Poetry

Dear Poets

Thank you for submitting. This in my opinion only. Another judge will see the poems differently.

Here is a general comment that applies to nearly all the entries. Here are few suggestions. Please read then see what applies to your poem.  I hope these suggestions help.
Most of the poems are still in draft form. They need to be taken further. Ideas need to be developed. A poet like Mary Oliver says she reworks her poems up to 40 times.
When approaching a subject such as war, be aware of what has been written before. i.e. reading poetry is part of writing poetry,  part of the discipline. And don’t just repeat ideas. Come up with something original . Concerning your subject (war) perhaps ask yourself ‘Have I said anything new about the subject? Can I offer a new perspective?” Or am I merely repeating general sentiments?
Read more poetry by established poets. e.g. read Wilfred Owen’s  Anthem for Doomed Youth. Read them aloud. You will absorb their techniques (rhythms, images , a line balanced against another line like a see-saw, word echoes etc.)
Unless you are a skilled poet, avoid rhyme at the end of the line.  Only accomplished poets are able to use end rhyme. Words will echo each other even if you are not trying for there are only so many sounds in a language. Often the best rhymes are the ones you don’t deliberately plot.
Create pictures with concrete words rather than using abstract concepts or summaries. i.e. write visually. You are your reader’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth and skin i.e. write though the 5 senses.
Don’t tell the reader. This denies them the experience.  Show via description. Describe, describe, describe.
Let every word count – a poem is like a goods train. No room for passenger words. So cut what the reader can deduce. Ask yourself how can I write in such a way that the reader becomes a creative partner?
Find an image (a metaphor preferably) than can serve as the backbone of the poem.
Ask yourself “ Does my poem show some development/movement or is it staying in the same place and just repeating an idea?”
Turn down the preaching and turn up the description.

Dorian Haarhoff