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Passions in Poetry

Digital Passions
Poetry Magazine

Digital Passions #1
published January 29, 1999


Anchor Point (our opening poem)
to WIT (Welcome, Introduction and Thanks)
New Features
What Is Poetry?
Mid Point (our second poem)
Statistics Never Lie
Visitor Feedback
I Need Your Help
Article Request
Active PagePoets Only (Writing Good Descriptions)
Closing Point (our final poem)
End Notes / Unsubscribe

Read It All (one big page)

Article Request Closing Point (final poem)

Poets Only (Writing Good Descriptions)

This subject has come up repeatedly in the past ten days, so I thought I would take a minute to discuss it here. Passions is a little different from many poetry sites, in that we have two descriptions for every poem: the short, lead-in teaser and the longer description displayed with the poem.

In recent email exchanges, I've been asked what purpose these serve and what's the best way to write them. One poet recently sent me a revised long description, changing her entry from a few generic sentences to about three paragraphs of very moving prose. I was *more* than happy to make the change. Another poet, after submitting about five works, wrote and said he would hold off on further submissions until he received some feedback - especially on the long description. Well, my friend, consider yourself feedbacked...

I write the short teasers for the poem, based on my understanding of it (and if I ever mess one up, don't be afraid to let me know), though it hasn't always been that way. Originally, the poetry submission form contained a field for the short description, and many of the earlier works posted on Passion were written by the author. But because there are many short descriptions listed together, on a single page, I later decided it was important to maintain some degree of consistency in voice. So, I reluctantly took over the task.

On the other hand, I also wrote a few of the longer descriptions in those bygone early days. The poems were too darn good to reject, but I still felt a description was necessary, so I took the liberty. Of course, that raises the very real question: why are the longer descriptions of value?

Many of our visitors, maybe even most, are only just learning to love poetry the way we do. They're not interested in metaphor or imagery, but in feelings and Truth. If we do our jobs well, they'll leave Passions with a lump in their collective throats and a feeling that poetry is a good thing. Something to be loved and cherished. And maybe, just maybe, they'll even want to learn a little more about why poetry can be such a powerful instrument for human understanding.

The descriptions that accompany your poetry, in many instances, act as a doorway. They lead our visitors from the mundane world of prose, to which they are accustomed, into the much more charged world of poetry. I don't think it's a coincidence that virtually ALL of our most popular poems have strong, meaningful descriptions. They tell the reader a little bit about the poem, and maybe even more importantly, they tell the reader about the poet. People respond to our words, yes, but they also respond when they can *see* us as human beings. They want to know what makes the poet tick. They want to know what motivates us, what inspires us. And in understanding us, they can better understand our work.

So, what makes a good description? The same exact things that make a good poem!

Be specific. Be personal. Don't tell us this poem is about your boyfriend - tell us why your boyfriend has so touched your life and what HE (specifically) means to you. Don't tell us this poem is about death - tell us how death has touched YOUR life and what SPECIFIC circumstances prompted you to write your poem. Don't tell us this poem is about the beauty of a summer night - tell us how a SPECIFIC summer night touched your heart and gave you glimpse into YOUR heart.

Be specific. Be personal. Don't tell us what the poem should mean to the reader. Tell us what it means to you.

You should spend nearly as much time and effort on your description as you did on the poem. Consider it your invitation, to the reader, to share your words and a part of your soul. And if our visitor accepts your invitation, and better understands you as a person, he will be in a much better position to understand your words as a poet. And he may just leave Passions with a better understanding of himself. And, perhaps, with a love of poetry that rivals our own.


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Passions in Poetry

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