How Poeming Is Like Dating

We’ve been discussing the composition of poetry on Twitter today. It sounds like many poets (including myself) tend to treat writing poetry like dating.

Start off for fun
At first, it’s just an image. Or an idea. Or a line. Something small and (what initially) seems unique triggers the beginning of a poem. You start to write it down, thinking it looks and sounds great. The common question: Will it still look good the next morning?

Often, these quickies may be abandoned in the light of day. Sometimes, forgotten forever. However, sometimes, there is enough “potential” there that…

Things start to get serious
And by serious, I mean, that you start trying to change the poem, and maybe the poem even starts trying to change you a little. This is where some really good poetry can be made. Many good poets and good poems make each other great during the revision process.

Of course, spending too much time revising a bad poem is also where quite a bit of time can be wasted.

Let go of the bad ones
Many poets (myself included) have trouble letting go of the bad poems. These are the poems that may have had “potential” at some point but are now just bad for you. Everyone outside can see that’s there’s nothing there. And deep down inside, you know it too.

You just have to let go of these poems. Who knows? Maybe it will make something of itself and return to you as a poem that works. Besides, you can always keep the best lines, images around in a “bits & pieces” notebook.

When you have a keeper, share it with the world
Just as you would bring a keeper home to meet the parents and family, keeper poems need to be shared with the world. These poems have everything you love, and you’re proud to be connected to it. So, share it by submitting to journals and publications or by self-publishing.

Of course, one obvious difference between poeming and dating comes at this point, because you have to let the keepers go as well. That’s the only way to move on to the next great poem.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


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21 thoughts on “How Poeming Is Like Dating

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  10. Sara McNulty

    Stated beautifully, Robert. By the time you finally let a poem go, it feels like a part of you was cut out, but then maybe, that part was diseased.

    Also, wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your suggestion to read Sage Cohen’s, Writing The Life Poetic. It is wonderfully helpful and full of incite.

  11. Margaret Fieland

    Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

    When I want to write
    something sure to delight

    I sit down with my pen,
    pick a word or two, then

    I start right in writing
    and hope it’s exciting.

    If it’s not, then I
    still hate saying goodbye,

    though awful it may be,
    to my poem-child baby.

  12. Sara Gwen


      This one’s for sure
        to make sense later on
      of this moment of love
        outliving its time,
        as though when as gone
      and when as obscure
      as though unheard of,
          it’ll still ignite
        in impromptu rhyme
          for one more night
      to its moment of love.


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  14. Sara Gwen

    Yes, and how some of y’all are completely natural just doing what comes completely natural, just going with the flow and creating art and magic straight out of the moment. While others of us keep having to refer to the manual and still never get it right.

    And how some of y’all are into the commitment thing and the love thing with each and every relationship. While others of us never get past a one-night stand with any given poem, revisions and all.

    And then some of y’all choose those with whom you do that creation thing. While others of us are the one chosen to be manipulated by it all.

    But then some of y’all move on so easily. While others of us keep wearing the damn ring long after it’s over just to keep from diving back into the dating scene.


  15. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    What a wonderful analogy, Robert. I’ve always thought of poetry, music, all the arts, as one big romance anyway, but the process being viewed in this way WORKS.

    In the beginning, as with songwriting, it was so hard to trim excess verbage (still is), especially when it’s a particularly clever or meaningful turn of phrase. I’ve learned to journal those extra phrases for later use, because I know they won’t come to mind again (my brain being a sieve in general!).

    Going back over a poem after time has passed is good advice, too. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Thanks as always for the advice! Amy