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Voices for the Planet: 4 Choice Poetry Tips

We invited our wonderful poetry expert, Gail Ingram, to contribute a couple of tips for aspiring poets. Gail gave us SEVEN tips! We will post these across two separate posts over the coming weeks.

Gail is an acclaimed poet and sought -after poetry editor.

If you enter a poem for Write On Speak Out: Voices for the Planet, chances are you will be lucky enough to have Gail as your mentor!

Gail says:

We can no longer swim in our rivers, our coral reefs are dying, our very planet is in danger. What can one person do to make a difference to this unwieldy seemingly out-of-hand threat of climate change? The simple answer is to do whatever you can, and to do it through the medium you do best. If you are a mother, you can teach your children to pick up their litter and turn off the dripping tap; if you are a farmer, you can fence your streams and use sustainable practices; and if you are a writer, you can influence others through your choice of powerful words.

But how to make your words powerful when everyone’s trying to shout the same thing – ‘Save the Planet from Plastic! Save the Polar Bears!’ Terrible as this may sound, this same old message becomes boring and, on top of that, most people don’t want to be told what to do!

Here are the first four of Gail's seven choice tips to keep your voice fresh and powerful!

TIP 1#

Surprise your readers; make them laugh.

Climate change is not funny, but humour can give your ideas complexity, freshness and make your message memorable.

Look how Erik Kennedy uses surprise and humour in these following lines. It is a poem about how the hope we felt for our planet during the pandemic is quickly being eroded by our actions after the lockdowns are over ... so it’s actually a very sad poem; but we are laughing as we cry:

I got so distracted by the excitement of

‘not going back to the way things were’

that I accidently went back to the way

things were. I meant to continue working remotely

but instead I book a commercial flight

whenever I go to the office or supermarket.

I thought I was letting nature heal

but I find myself chasing bees away from flowers

wearing a hornet onesie. I’m only human—

From “Post-Pandemic Adaptation” Another Beautiful Day Indoors (2022)

TIP 2 #

Use speciFIc and original examples to illustrate your ideas.

Again, look at Erik’s poem. He tells us that he “accidently went back to the way things were”, then he uses very specific examples to show us what he means by that: He takes “a commercial flight” to the office; and he chases “bees away from flowers / wearing a hornet onesie.” The use of ‘a hornet onesie’ is very specific, quirky and original. But why does wearing a hornet onesie not allow nature to heal? Perhaps it’s something to do with hornets being nasty and threatening the lives of our precious bees? Perhaps onesies are made of synthetic materials using slave labour?

TIP 3 #

You don’t need to spell everything out!

By not spelling out the answer as to why wearing a hornet onesie is not allowing our planet to heal, Erik engages the reader to come up with their own reasons – and maybe makes us think twice about buying hornet onesies!

TIP 4 #

Use line breaks to add some new and surprising information.

We might expect the line “I book a commercial flight” to be followed by “to some overseas destination”. Instead on the next line we have: “whenever I go to the office or supermarket.” This makes us laugh but it also jolts us awake. Why do we need a commercial flight to go to the supermarket? you may ask, only to realise Erik is making a comment on how much energy we use to stock the supermarket from overseas goods or buy fuel from Arabia.

Thanks, Gail!

And thanks to Erik for his wonderful poem. Read more of Erik's work in his latest poetry collection:

We will post more tips from Gail next week.

We look forward to reading your poems! See here to submit!

(c) Write On 2022


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