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The 10 Commandments of Poetry

By Gary R. Hess. Category: Poetry

Poetry is an amazing art form. There are many different techniques, genres, emotions, and styles one can use to write a poem. Nonetheless, there are a few "commandments" we must follow when writing about this lovely form of art.

  1. I am a poem, thou shall not have false writings before me.

    A poem is a poem and not everything you separate into lines is a poem. Don't write prose and call it one; it isn't.

  2. Thou shall not use the poem's name in vain.

    This is much like the first, but seriously, don't do it! Write poetry because it is poetry and don't call other writings poetry when they aren't. Poetry is a specific literary genre used to express ones emotions in ways prose can't.

  3. Remember to carry the rhythm, always.

    Poetry is mostly about rhythm. Now don't get me wrong, the entire poem doesn't need to be written in iambic-pentameter. However, keep it uniform. One line may be iambic-pentameter, the next iambic-trimeter, followed by iambic-pentameter again. It doesn't really matter. But the poem must flow. Read it aloud. Read it to yourself. Now read it aloud again. Does it flow? If not, change it.

  4. Honor thy meters and thy stanzas.

    Meters and stanzas aren't a literary term only for your amusement, use them!

  5. Thou shall not force rhyme.

    I've done this several times, everyone does. Actually, sometimes when I'm reading famous classical works I notice something that looks forced. That's a big no no. Rhyming is great for keeping flow, but it isn't the only way to do so. Rhyme when it is possible, but don't over-rhyme. If you can't find a word to rhyme with, then it isn't meant to be.

  6. Thou shall not commit to one emotion.

    Many young poets (and some older) feel it is easiest to write when they are in love or feeling down. I know this was true for me at one time. However, those aren't the only two emotions we feel and they aren't the only emotions your readers feel. Give them laughter, give them greatness, give them beauty! And I'm not just talking about your emotions, but the emotions you express in your writings.

  7. Thou shall not steal.

    Please, please for the love of literature, do not steal other writer's work and claim it as your own.

  8. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy rhythm.

    Don't try to keep a "false rhythm." A rhythm is there for your reader's to read smoothly and feel an emotion. Don't use a rhythm that doesn't work when read aloud.

  9. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's poem.

    Don't try to be Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou, be yourself. Most great poets are great because they are unique, not because they sound exactly like every other poet.

  10. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's pen.

    Buy your own, fool! But seriously, use your own voice and not your neighbor's. That is, unless you have a character in your poem which your neighbor would play a great part as.

You might be wondering what 10 Commandments this is based off of. It is the Catholic ten.