(Last update: October, 2012)


Note to the reader
1. Acquiring knowledge
1.1. About the readings
1.2. The best reader is a rereader and a meditator of that which was read
1.3. Dictionaries
1.4. Anthologies and individual works
1.5. Educating the discernment
2. Introspection
2.1. Gnôthi seautón
2.2. Mental polarity
2.3. Vanitas vanitatum
2.3.1. Nature of vanity
2.3.2. The effects of vanity
2.3.3. How to impose limits on vanity
2.4. Praise and criticism
2.5. Inspiration and work
2.6. Triggers of the creative act
2.6.1. External triggers (in the perception of external stimuli)
2.6.2. Internal triggers (in the perception of internal stimuli)
2.7. Uninspiring periods
2.8. Writer's block
2.8.1. Types
2.8.2. Some causes
2.9. Evolution and change
2.10. Creation, pleasure and courage
3. Working the text
3.1. Verse tension

3.2. Reading aloud
3.3. Rhythm
3.3.1. Verse and prose rhythm
3.3.2. Rhythms of quantity, intensity, timbre and tone 3.3.3. Feet
3.4. Poetic shortcomings
3.4.1. "Deep" words
3.4.2. Overused words
3.4.3. Noun and adjective association
3.4.4. Rhyme weaknesses Sporadic rhymes in free verse poetry
3.4.5. Some general considerations about rhyme
3.5. Putting yourself in the reader's shoes
3.6. Allowing the text to rest
3.7. Correcting
3.8. The easy and the difficult
3.9. Formal innovation
3.9.1. Innovation through the association of formal characteristics
3.9.2. Innovation through the association of formal and semantic characteristics
3.9.3. Innovation through extension
3.9.4. Innovation through multiplication
3.9.5. Innovation through condensation
3.9.6. Innovation through redistribution of the verse parts
3.9.7. Innovation through imitation
3.9.8. Innovation through opposition
3.9.9. Innovation through fusion of different objects 4. Some keys of the fascination of poetry
5. References



Rhythmically ordered word,
or visible vehicle to the invisible
soul, or the river that flows

nutritious, or the unquenchable thirst,
ysterical woman nude on the bed,
a god that blows, or bad algebra.

Or the astonishment, or the loving, and/or the anger.

The plentiful all, the caring nothingness.

                                                         Isidro Iturat


          I would like to thank the translators Jack Martin and Lidia R. H. Rudman for their invaluable assistance in the translation of this text.


          The following text is a summary of what I consider to be the most essential ideas about poetic creation, which I have been accumulating during my years of literary work. The existence of this text derives from the practicality of having a single and brief document which is easy to consult, that could help me to keep these ideas in mind. At first, I decided to create it to facilitate my own literary tasks, but also thinking about the possibility of helping other authors' work.


                                                 Retreated in the peace of these deserts,
                                                 together with few but scholarly books...

                                                                                        Francisco de Quevedo

1.1. About the readings

When learning about any subject, it is convenient to first look for the best works and the best authors. In approaching each subject, there is always that one book which is really able to expand our vision of the matter with true strength, that one author who has special talent, who has the special ability to separate the important from the insignificant, etc. The reading of a single good book can bring us a high degree of knowledge in just a few days, which would require years of lower quality readings, besides showing us things that we would never have otherwise learnt.

          Furthermore, it is advisable to adopt the attitude of always seeking the best possible libraries, bookstores, listed references, educational institutions and mentors.

A good system to search for references when we don't have any guidance can be, for example, going to a university library, ideally the most prestigious one regarding the issue that we want to learn about (access to the building and the consultation of the books are often possible, even if we are not students of that institution). There, we can try to gather as many books about our subject as possible and leaf through them to select the best ones. We can then choose one or two of them to read.

Why search in universities? Simply because compendiums of the finest works can often be found in their libraries or in the bibliography lists provided by each subject (nowadays this kind of list can be easily found on the Internet). These works, being highly specialized, are also frequently ignored by almost everybody and they stop being edited. Nevertheless, they survive on the shelves of the university libraries due to the expert professors' interest.

Of course, if such access is not possible, it's important to adapt to the situation. If it's not possible to search at the university, it will be on the Internet, or in local bookstores, or in bookstores further afield because the local ones do not have the books that we want, etc. Above all, always try to do as much as possible, whatever the cost, to gain access to good knowledge.

Note: I would like to emphasize that I will not suggest anything to the reader that I have not myself tested and verified as being productive.

1.2. The best reader is a rereader and a meditator of that which was read

          We will now consider the following two ideas: "How wise we would be if we knew well only five or six books" (Gustave Flauvert)[1] and "Meditation: only with it do we get to own what we read" (Arthur Schopenhauer's)[2].

          These ideas are particularly necessary nowadays, where we are often compelled to receive large volumes of information at high speed, which ultimately leads us to internalize solidly very little of it all.

          So, first it is necessary to select the readings, read and reread them (without forgetting to underline, to take notes, to make diagrams, etc.) and then meditate deeply about what was read, if the material is worthwhile.

1.3. Dictionaries

          The habit of using dictionaries when writing is essential for keeping our personal vocabulary moving and growing. The learning process also provides us with natural ups and downs, with periods of slow and fast advances, stagnations, regressions and new advances. This habit will provide those who want to write with the necessary knowledge to overcome the excessive recurrence of certain words, to dominate phenomena such as the rhyme, etc. That is, it will expand the writer's own inner universe.

          The two most necessary kinds of dictionaries are:

          1. The general dictionary. Besides the reasons mentioned above, it will be useful at the moment of creation because when a phrase comes up in our mind, a word may seem attractive to us but maybe we don't know clearly what it really means. The dictionary will confirm whether that word is appropriate to the context or not.

          2. Synonyms and antonyms dictionary. It is suitable for the opposite case, that is, when it appears in a verse a word whose meaning is known and expresses exactly the idea we want, but we need another word because its shape does not harmonize with the phrase or, when included in a regular verse, it does not have the appropriate number of syllables.

          Other useful suggestions according to our personal preference could be the encyclopedias and the dictionaries of: slang, rhetoric, literary terms, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etymology, symbols and so on.

1.4. Anthologies and individual works

          Besides a first contact with the authors, the reading of history and literature books and anthologies will allow us to obtain a panoramic view of the poetry of any culture of our interest in a relatively short time. We also have to keep in mind that without knowing at least the work and resources used by the most historically influential poets, it will be easier to make the mistake of thinking that we are innovating when, in fact, it is not so.

          For acquiring a broad and deep knowledge, it may be useful to dedicate some periods of time to getting this overview of the culture and others focussing on just one author, thus approaching the general and the specific views.

1.5. Educating the discernment

          Reading can be anything, except something innocuous. The changes in the ideas and in the states of mind can be extreme, mainly when we read the great writers, who are usually distinguished by knowing how to fascinate through the form. This may mean, for example, that we could end up internalizing ideas that might be harmful for us without noticing. Therefore, it is extremely necessary for the reader and mainly for the reader-writer, who after receiving the message will become a new informant, to exercise the discernment of what will be good or not, both for himself as well as for the others.

          It is advisable to meditate on both the ideas and states of mind induced by the text. For example, after reading a text which transmits nihilism effectively, it's possible we may feel depressed, hopeless, angry, etc.; while after reading a text focused on the affirmation of life, we can feel things like love, courage, joy... It will also be necessary to see what we really want to incorporate into our universe because, in general, we are what we eat.

          However, it doesn't just mean to eliminate any reading that may suddenly seem intuitively threatening. In fact, it will not be unusual that a book interests us, because of wanting to learn about its style for example, even if it contains ideas which we don't like. Approaching a reading with our critical filters actively engaged will affect our emotions to a lesser extent. Therefore, it is always possible to define the degree in which we will allow the text to lead us.


                                   Poetry is a way to the inner being

                                                                          Octavio Paz

2.1. Gnôthi seautón

          A writer doesn't exist without the knowledge of his or her inner self, that is, the writer doesn't exist without paying attention to his or her own psychological processes in some way: strengths and weaknesses, attractions and repulsions... finally to the mental, ideally to the spiritual.

          Note: Due to the complexity of the subject, studying the poetic phenomenon from the spiritual perspective exceeds the limits of this work. Therefore, we will limit ourselves to approach the psychic dimension. However, we have to say that it is not an uncommon fact that the individual who is interested in the introspection discovers the movements of the soul, while trying to look "deeply within".

2.2. Mental polarity

          Modern psychology has explored the areas of the brain where the different mental functions reside. A succinct presentation of this may help us to understand some of the processes related to creativity.

          Here follow some of these functions and their location (those that are more relevant to our issue):

Left hemisphere

Conscious level

Logical thought (reason, calculation, analysis)

Language (syntax and grammar, reading and writing)

View of the details

Notion of time

Interpretation of the physical environment

Right hemisphere

Unconscious level

Analogical thought (image, symbol, metaphor, fantasy)


View of the whole

Notion of space


          One of the two hemispheres is always dominant but the area that connects them, the corpus callosum, allows the integrated action of their functions. Curiously, according to psychology, the healthier individuals would be those who obtain a better balance between these two poles, getting near to what is called coniunctio oppositorum (reconciliation of opposites). Such individuals would present a more integrated personality, showing signs such as a greater understanding and adaptation towards the inner and outer world, empathic capacity, individuality, self-regulation, capacity of experiencing pleasure in positive situations and, obviously, creativity. We may also be interested about knowing that the poetry itself collaborates with the integrative processes of the personality because it naturally exercises the interaction between both hemispheres.

          Relating all this to the temperament of the poem, we can observe that when mental activity is excessively driven by the left hemisphere, there is a tendency to produce "cold" works, without any artistic intrepidity. While, if polarization towards the right hemisphere occurs, the poem tends to offer chaotic forms. When both hemispheres work together, work is produced in which both the intellectual and the passionate sides, instead of confronting each other, are mutually encouraged. For example, we could have intense emotion and formal regularity, uncommon expressions and sense, deep thought and refined form, conscious work and magical inspiration, all within the poem at the same time.

2.3. Vanitas vanitatum

          We shall start by mentioning what the scholars call "infantile grandiosity". In it, the natural human desire of being admired and approved at certain stages of childhood is not transcended. The cause is found in some specific experiences related to frustration and abandonment, which make this desire remain with pathological intensity during adulthood. I am mentioning this case because I feel it is necessary to show, albeit briefly, the most acute expression of the problem, but ultimately, a deep approach will pertain, above all, to the psychologist.

          Leaving aside the extreme situations, we have to say that any human being, who creates something and is applauded for it, will feel vanity at a certain time and this will happen to a greater or a lesser extent depending on things such as the intensity of the applause, personal history and the natural predisposition to it.

          So, what the poet may wonder about isn't whether they will feel it or not, but how to impose limits on it. Some ideas for this:

2.3.1. Nature of vanity

          When its origin doesn't come from an early childhood conflict, vanity is a natural instinctive response to an emotional impact (in a writer's case: the applause) and it is expressed by a state of emotional instability. The person who acts under vanity is off balance, weak. Moreover, the greater the external grandiosity is, the greater the inner insecurity will be.

2.3.2. The effects of vanity

          The most frequent consequences are:

          1st. The people who are really important in our lives (for example, those who sincerely appreciate us) will tend to turn away from us.

          2nd. The author loses the objectivity in relation to the quality of their own work. Thus, he considers anything he writes as a "great work". In addition, it is not uncommon that authors who have already produced extraordinary works go on to create mediocre works, under the effects of vanity, believing that they are genialities.

2.3.3. How to impose limits on vanity

          1. Dedication to study. It may be useful to plunge into literary or linguistic study, especially at times of vanity related emotional aggravation. The more difficult this study is the better. This way, the person regains awareness of the number of things that are still to be learnt and done.

          2. Having sex, ideally with love. When it is not done with the intention to hurt, is actually an act of surrendering. It always means a "little death" of the ego, helping to both: impose limits on the ego and to keep our feet on the ground. A person who is usually dedicated to intellectual tasks and does not have any sexual experience, tends to produce a kind of intricate work that is immersed in an empty intellectualism.

          3. Memento homo ("Remember, o man, that thou are dust ..."). Without the intention of being too tragic, we should remember that nothing prevents, at any certain time in our life, some kind of unpredictable and unavoidable accident happening to us, eliminating the best athlete's physical power, the best thinker's mind, the richest one's fortune, the most graceful one's beauty, the most hard-working worker's task, the best artist's art, etc.

          4. Face to face with the public. Reading books about public speaking can be very useful but I also mention here some specific strategies related to our epigraph:

          - The insistence on proclaiming “how humble I am” or criticizing other people's vanity doesn't work because any minimally lucid observer will tell us the old Spanish saying “Dime de qué presumes y te diré de qué careces” ("Tell me what you boast about and I'll tell you what you lack").

          - While in direct contact with other people, the fact of listening to the others centers and strengthens us. Being alert to one another's necessities, being accessible and at the same time knowing how to restrict the contact if we feel emotionally exploited or exhausted will be important. And, of course, we always have to avoid being rude.

          - It is of great importance to limit contact with flatterers as much as possible and to increase contact with people who have enough integrity and courage to give us a critical opinion, if necessary.

          - However, being talented or not, it is always prudent to not speak negatively about our own work to the public. Firstly, because this discourages the readers to approach our writings (How will a person be interested in a text whose author says explicitly that it is not good?...). Secondly, this is usually one of the most common forms of false modesty.

          - If we are praised, saying thank you is enough. This also includes something very necessary: to allow ourselves to be loved and "fed" by the public.

          - Pay attention to gestures. Body language and gestures can show our emotional state, even before our words do. For example, facing the audience or an interlocutor with crossed arms already denotes a defensive attitude. An "upturned nose" reveals our vanity, etc.

          5. The major law. What strengthens us most when dealing with vanity is to act with humor, understanding and compassion, both: towards ourselves and the others. We are all made of the same material.

2.4. Praise and criticism

          Praise is good and necessary, but there is a thin line that separates the positive effect that it causes and its disequilibrium. In order to identify this line, it's necessary to first have a minimally clear vision of our artistic limits. The praise that is well-assimilated by the author gives a strong incentive to continue creating and, in fact, the artist needs it. However, criticism is not less important than praise.

          Regarding this second object, it can be said that it is logically desirable to receive lucid criticisms that maintain courtesy, but even the worst, the rudest and most obtuse of them may be beneficial if used to delimit the vanity and to improve the work itself.

          In reality, the indignation caused when receiving an insult, for example, may be a valuable stimulus to reexamine what we are doing. If the author is somewhat interested in making their work reach good quality, they will put real energy into trying to strengthen their own weaknesses. So, even if it hurts, all criticism is good if we want and know how to use it.

          Anyway, if we want the emotional impact to diminish, we can increase our own receptivity and flexibility by learning about the process of instinctive reaction provoked by somebody's opposition. This process consists of the following phases:

          1st. Denial. The person automatically denies the criticism.

          2nd. Rationalization. The person tries to justify their own position, tries to find rational arguments to show that their attitude is not wrong.

          3rd. Aggressiveness. The person answers to criticism with hostility.

          4th. Assimilation/acceptance. In a later moment of calmness, the person starts meditating again upon the matter and begins to realize their mistake, if it really exists.

          A way of avoiding the first three phases may consist of asking the source of the criticism questions, such as: why, how can it be improved, etc. Thus, we are breaking the confrontational situation and leaving behind our defensive posture, and consequently converting our opponent (previously our "enemy") into an ally for the solution of the problem.

          Finally, the benefits of listening to everybody should be observed by us and of course, we must also “filter” what we are told by whoever it is, so that at last, the ideas and decisions we take may be the result of a solid and careful process of discernment.

2.5. Inspiration and Work

          Inspiration is something that does not come to us exactly when we want it, but we can form the psychological bases for it to arrive more often and easily. This can be achieved through:

          1. Work. According to "the law of focus", which says that everything that gets attention grows, if the habit of writing is greater, the moments of productive inspiration will also occur more frequently.

          2. The poetic trade. It is quite certain that an author who has poetic skills can write a poem with a perfect technique, using an interesting idea and maybe this poem doesn't have any "breath", "magic" or "soul"; it doesn't "vibrate", it is not “alive", it is "cold"... because the "connection to the heart" is missing. However, there will also be moments when this connection might be very intense and, if the author is not skilled, they will not have the expressive resources needed to exploit it. Therefore, they will effectively produce a poem that expresses very intense emotions, but is equally as unable to captivate the reader as in the first case.

          Sporadically composing a cold poem or a poem that simply does not work should not worry us too much. As it shouldn't worry us if a rather considerable amount of what we write ends up in the trash (in fact, if it happens, it will be one more indicator of objectivity and sincerity towards oneself). We can even say that a poem that does not work may be preparing our sensibility for another one that will later materialize with all of the magic and poetic force. This case is more likely, for example, when we start writing after a long period of inactivity.

          Nevertheless, the mechanisms that wake the creative energy may vary greatly depending on the temperaments: the strategies which work with one person do not work with another one. That is why the poet must learn to know about their own inner processes, to try to understand what leads them to write, for what, for whom, the kind of poetry they are interested in creating and which situations, experiences or readings trigger the writing of verse or not.

2.6. Triggers of the creative act

          They are found naturally in what we do with special interest or intensity. Let's remember at least the most common ones, which can be divided into two groups:

2.6.1. External triggers (in the perception of external stimuli)

          1. Readings.

          2. Direct observation of the physical environment.

          3. The other arts: painting, sculpture, music, cinema, theater, etc.

          4. Conflict and/or external harmony: the ones in which we actively intervene as well as the ones in which we are simply interested observers.

2.6.2. Internal triggers (in the perception of internal stimuli)

          1. Our emotions: anger, joy, love, depression, humor, etc.

          2. Our own thoughts: philosophical meditation, rational thinking, etc.

          3. Imagination.

          4. Intuition.

          5. Daytime fantasies and dreams.

          6. Memories.

          7. Desires.

2.7. Uninspiring periods

          It is totally natural that during the artistic path, uninspiring periods may occur, even if the writer is highly talented. This includes times when writing may be completely impossible. It is inevitable because on one hand, life may not always give us space to do things such as writing a poem and on the other hand, even if that's not the case, the creative energy comes and goes.

          However, an uninspiring period should not always be considered as a sterile one. It may be necessary, for example, to restore the energy, to accumulate new experiences, etc.

2.8. Writer's block

2.8.1. Types

          1. Total block. It happens when we cannot write anything, not even start a new work or continue from any point of an already initiated one, or even change the discursive genre of it (for example, we often feel blocked while writing in verse, but if we change into prose we manage to do that).

          2. Specific block. We may feel blocked at a specific point of a work that is in progress, at the time of expressing a determined idea, finding a missing word, a tone, a style, or even continuing with the construction of scenery or the psychology of a character, etc.

2.8.2. Some causes

          1st. Lack of knowledge.


          - Of course, learning more about the subject of the work, possibly through study, by reading other authors who have already approached that issue, trying to gain new life experiences...

          - Letting matters take their course. We have to take into account that the unconscious has the ability of keeping the desire to express something for a long time. For example, it can happen that at first, we may not find the proper form we want to express a particular idea. Although, if it is meaningful for us, it will remain in our mind as a seed which is waiting for the right conditions to germinate, so that the final text that expresses this idea may arise even years after the first desire of materialization.

          Sometimes, the text does not arise at the same moment the idea appears, simply because we have not acquired the literary maturity or life experience for that. The best way to face the situation is by being calm and patient, conscious that in the future the dilemma will be solved and that there will be no problem if we deal with other issues for the time being.

          2nd. Mental or emotional imbalance. Stress, depression, fatigue, demotivation, fears, etc. The solution is to determine and solve the causes of the symptoms.

          3rd. Because of the natural decline in the cycle of creative energy. There are times in which we are naturally more predisposed to introspection and other times to extroversion. This phenomenon is cyclical and there is no other option but to wait. We have to adapt ourselves to the demands of each moment.

2.9. Evolution and change

          One of the greatest concerns for the author is often their own evolution. So, it can be said that poetry only changes when the poet's being changes.

          Of course, if we want change, it is essential for the writer to be open, to a certain extent, to new experiences. Nevertheless, that means making an effort, because we naturally tend to create what is called a "comfort zone", that is: we want to develop our interaction in the world within certain mental and spatial limits, in which we feel comfortable, well adapted and thus tending to preserve our fixed values and ideas. Leaving this zone means facing the unknown world and this can provoke fear in the majority of cases.

          However, the stagnation associated to the changing factor may occur from the lack of activity as well as from its excess, that is: when we are submitted to stimuli and situations which induce us to change at a speed that's not assimilated by our mind. Some of the symptoms of this dynamic can be, for example: states of mental confusion, anxiety or "eternal" hurry.

          Becoming aware of these processes is essential for us to gain control of them, also for deciding what must be changed or not in ourselves and for identifying what elements must be incorporated or discarded.

2.10. Creation, pleasure and courage

          Creation is inherently linked to these two phenomena: pleasure and courage.

          The creative act generates pleasure while producing optimistic work, but also when it expresses painful realities, even if it may seem paradoxical. We can find the causes of this pleasure in phenomena such as: catharsis, venting, aesthetic enjoyment, feelings of truth and freedom, acquiring knowledge, being transgressive, being surprised, rescuing the innocence, taking the creative function to the limit and finding and expanding the boundaries of our knowledge and emotion...

          The creative act is also connected to courage because it implies that we have to assume the risks of generating an object capable of receiving other individuals' confrontation. The object reinforces our personality and makes it visible. Therefore, it forces us, for good or for evil, to assume responsibility for the existing object and its repercussions.


                                         Love your rhythm and give rhythm to your actions,

                                                                                                         Rubén Darío

3.1. Verse tension

          A whole set of phenomena occur within a poem, such as: tensions and distensions, accelerations and decelerations, that are among stanzas, phrases, words, syllables, letters and silences. There is no logical rule that can measure verse tension, but it can be perfectly felt. For example, its lack can be perceived in poems in which the speech sounds "too flabby", "without vitality" and its excess can be felt in poems which condense excessive semantic and phonic figures.

3.2. Reading aloud

          This is what allows you to feel the verse tension, the proper rhythm and harmony of the poem. Effective verse offers easy pronunciation which flows when read aloud.

3.3. Rhythm

3.3.1. Verse and prose rhythm

          A fact that radically distinguishes poetry from other forms of discourse is its musical nature. In summary, it can be said that poetry is, according to the Spanish grammarian Tomás Navarro Tomás's expression[3], "a rhythmically organized set of words".

          The most important element which gives poetry a degree of rhythm that is different from any other type of speech is its distribution in poetic lines or verses that present a poetic-rhythmic axis, that is, the last stressed syllable in each verse, where the melodic curve reaches its maximum intensity, which doesn't happen in prose (see: BALBÍN, Rafael de. Sistema de rítmica castellana . Madrid: Biblioteca románica hispánica, Editorial Gredos, 1975[4]).

          In addition, the author of a poem knows that the line of the verse can always stop before the limit established in the paragraph of the prose. The author is "verse conscious", which alone will create a rhythmic cadence that differentiates a poem from a piece of prose, even if it is a visual composition or free verse. This gives poetry a sense of verticality/partition that contrasts with the horizontality/continuity of prose.

          With regard to certain compositions that make these ideas relative, we may mention, for example, the extreme case where entire paragraphs appear randomly or alternately inserted among verses. Looking at this phenomenon, we can say that in the presence of lines with poetic-rhythmic axis, these compositions must be considered as poems.

3.3.2. Rhythms of quantity, intensity, timbre and tone

          Now we will mention the four elements considered fundamental for making the poem rhythmical[5]:

          1. Rhythm of quantity. Determined by the number of syllables in the verse.

          2. Rhythm of intensity. Determined by the positioning, regular or not, of the stresses in the verse.

          3. Rhythm of timbre. Determined by the rhyme.

          4. Rhythm of tone. Determined by the pauses (which can be between or within the verse). If the phonic groups are long, the tone of the poem slows down and tends to acquire a more solemn air. If the phonic groups are short, the tone becomes more agile and tends to acquire a lively popular air.

          In prose, these four elements of rhythm usually have a free and asymmetrical distribution, while in verse, they tend to have regularity.

3.3.3. Feet

          Feet[6] are groups commonly formed by two or three and occasionally four syllables (at least one syllable is always stressed within the group). In the verse, the synalephas and the synereses can be counted as just one syllable.

          There are several types of feet, according to the alternation among the unstressed syllables (U) and the stressed ones (S), that is, according to its intensity, that can be:

          1. Trochee (S - U). One stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one.

Whence these legends and traditions,
         S - U        S - U        S - U    S - U
                                                     Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

          2. Iamb (U - S). One unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.

Content with that my mind doth bring.
   U - S        U - S      U – S          U - S
                                                       Edward Dyer

          3. Dactyl (S – U - U). One stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones.

Just for a riband to stick in his coat
 S – U – U   S – U - U     S – U - U      S
                                                           Robert Browning

          4. Amphibrach (U – S - U) One stressed syllable between two unstressed ones.

All ready to put up the tents for my circus.
  U – S - U  U – S - U       U – S – U      U – S - U
                                                                        Theodor Seuss Geisel

          5. Anapaest (U – U - S). Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one.

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold
   U – U – S        U – U – S         U – U – S    U – U - S
                                                                                    Lord Byron

          If we wish to write verses using these feet, we shouldn't get so worried about the exact calculation of the syllables when initially writing the verse because we will easily feel blocked.

          In order to actually make the verse flow, it is necessary to feel the rhythmic cadence, even before calculating. It is essential to listen to the music of the verse. First: we have to feel the rhythmic pattern and after that, the rhythm will call the word and the word will configure the image and the idea. Before looking for the phrase, the rhythm must be mentally internalized well. To achieve this, the rhythmic cadence can even be hummed before starting to insert words into it.

          At a later moment, when refining the poem, we will be able to pay special attention to the syllabic calculation, in order to obtain a perfect distribution of feet.

          In this kind of composition especially, rhythm, word, image, emotion, idea and calculation go together.

3.4. Poetic shortcomings

          The intention is not to veto the forms that will be described here, but only to facilitate the conscious contemplation of their possible effects on the poem. These are tendencies that are part of the natural learning process for most poets and that are often present, mainly during the initial phase of learning. Thus, self-examination is suggested to see if these shortcomings are identified in the work itself and also whether they should be understood as phenomena that must be overcome or not.

3.4.1. "Deep" words

          The novice poet often has the mistaken idea that they must exhibit deep thought to make the text poetic and to achieve it they must include voices such as: being, infinite, universe, eternal, soul...

3.4.2. Overused words

          Besides the above mentioned words, here are some that are also extremely overused, mainly in intimate or love poems: rose, rainbow, butterfly, sun, moon, sky, sea, star, night, bird, kiss, heart, love, eyes... Or in nihilistic poems: death, scream, darkness, emptiness, God, blood, fear, nothingness...

          The majority of the neophyte poets use these words intensely and any reader who has some knowledge of the literary tradition, will realize the result of their use is unoriginal, but the question is not only whether they are used or not, but how they are used.

          Anyway, using such words for writing a poem nowadays and not producing commonplace material really requires a great deal of mastery.

3.4.3. Noun and adjective association

          One of the most commonly overused resources at the time of writing consists of making the poem sustained by the association of noun and adjective. The case of surrealistic poems should also be mentioned, where the search for the unusual combination between those categories prevails.

          If we want to overcome this tendency, we can incorporate the following idea: authors who are truly searching for expressive versatility don't limit themselves only to the contemplation of noun and adjective. They value every word, every grammatical category of words, the punctuation and also the combinations of syllables, letters and silences.

3.4.4. Rhyme weaknesses

          1. Trite rhymes. Some of the most classic examples are the rhymes formed with the endings: -ight, -ay, -ed, -ing, etc.

          2. Making different verses finish with the same word. When the author uses it because they are unable to find a more distant rhyme, the most likely result is a disharmonious outcome. Although, there are compositions in which the poet uses it consciously, converting such action into an aesthetic resource.

          3. Forced rhyme. This is a word placed at the end of a verse used to make it rhyme with another one, but which has an adverse effect on the meaning and fluency of the speech, usually depriving the feeling of surprise and aesthetic pleasure that the rhyme produces when it is ingenious. However, there are authors who use this resource intentionally, making it excessively obvious in order to have a humorous effect. Sporadic rhymes in free verse poetry

          Verses in close proximity that rhyme are sometimes found in free verse poetry. When it happens, we feel they are specially connected with each other and as if they stand out due to the intensification that the rhyme produces in the sensorial perception of the words. However, when the rhyme is not distributed symmetrically, it will be most probable to feel that there is a break in the overall harmony and to experience a discomfort at that point. So, it gives the impression that the author doesn't have expressive versatility and their style is poor[7].

          On the other hand, if we avoid the use of rhyme when composing free verse, or at least make an effort to place the rhyming elements far enough apart so as to not be perceived by our ear, the poem offers a sensation of clarity, of “oxygenation” and of a broader discursive richness.

3.4.5. Some general considerations about rhyme

          When the author doesn't yet have a command of the rhyme, they can be compared, using a metaphor, to the rider who wants to break in a horse without the skill or the strength to do so. In which case, the animal gets out of control.

          The rhyme is pleasant for the reader when it is not felt to be forced or obvious, when it appears in a text that flows naturally, which may contain deep ideas and the most intense emotional charge and still it rhymes surprisingly, "magically".

          When it is well used, the form can reinforce the content. The thought that wants to rise, rises even more and the emotion that we want to intensify, is intensified. In this case, the author will be compared to a rider who dominates their horse, always regarding that it is best to not only know how to break in and guide the horse but also how to establish an emotional bond with the animal. The poet finds pleasure in and through the rhyme, dances with it and their delight is finally transmitted to the reader.

          To improve the rhyme, besides the practice of consulting dictionaries, we can search for and read the works of the best rhyming poets, 'savoring' their rhymes in detail and naturally internalizing the cadences and alternations through the pleasure.

3.5. Putting yourself in the reader's shoes

          The authors who manage to touch the reader's sensibility with their words, often have the capacity of taking the reader into account, besides expressing their own concerns in the text: What will they feel, think about and see when they read our work?

          The number of semantic levels of the poem tends to increase when writing this way. It becomes resonant and plurisignificant. It tends to go from being "flat" to "rounded", from the individual to the archetypical psyche, no longer aimed at an individual but at everybody.

          Apart from some honorable exceptions (for example, if we believe in Anton Chekhov, who stated that he did not care even a little about the reader[8]), when authors write only for themselves, the reader does not feel that the message concerns them and loses interest quickly.

          The literary “I”, which can be very different from the personal “I”, tends to become archetypical, allowing the reader to identify with it. When the personal “I” demands a lot of attention, it can do so, for example, by polarizing the work towards the expression in the first-person or making the rebuilding of their private experiences too obvious, thus making evident a mere narcissistic attitude (which will be enough to cause rejection). Moreover, it is possible that the creations laid on the paper also tend to present a lack of imagination, simply by being the product of a very limited view of the world.

          Finally, we must take into consideration that a real and objective knowledge of what the reader will pick up will ultimately never be possible (and in my opinion, it wouldn't be healthy either). The writer will have to be satisfied with creating the image of what is called an "ideal reader", which is not necessarily a bad result.

3.6. Allowing the text to rest

          The moment of the creation is often immersed in a special mental state. Intense emotions arise from it. The poet may feel like "being in another world” or even, as the ancients said: "possessed by a numen...". However, at this moment of "creative fire", of "birth", it is unusual to get a well-finished poem. When this creative moment ends, it is advisable to keep the poem safe. After some time (hours, days, weeks, months or even years), when the poem is read again, it will be very easy to perceive mistakes and points that do not flow, which weren't noticed during the first creative impetus.

3.7. Correcting

          Our sense of reason is not often enough to decide when to consider a poem as finished. It is also necessary to pay attention to our own feelings, emotions and intuitions. Some poems need only minutes to be finished; others need years and there are some, which even after years will not reach a satisfactory form.

          Some authors recommend a minimum correction, while others recommend an intense one, and in both cases, depending on the author's personality, both may be right. However, we cannot ignore the dangers of the two opinions: leaving the work "raw" (this is more frequent among those people who feel like "natural poets") or killing the initial vitality of the poem by over-correction (among people who feel extremely insecure).

          Regarding this point, I would not suggest adopting a standard approach for all cases, but that each composition is considered individually and that the author "hears" the specific needs of each poem.

          Some procedures for the correction: shortening, expanding, deleting, replacing and changing the position.

3.8. The easy and the difficult

          In our Western culture, we usually associate the concepts of difficulty and value: if it is difficult, it has merit. Experience shows however, that a poem isn't necessarily better than another just because it presents a more complex structure. There are also people who systematically despise the poem for the mere fact of it being complex.

          With this in mind, it would be desirable not to forget that, ultimately, it is the poet's inner need which should be a priority at the time of defining the nature of the writing. The poem will be a living object, whether baroque or minimalist, if it is in harmony with this inner need.

          Continuing what has been previously stated, I would like to remember the following maxim: "There is a time for everything." That is, there is a time for the simple and the complex, for the profound and for the trivial.

3.9. Formal innovation

          Some strategies:

3.9.1. Innovation through the association of formal characteristics

          Example: The décima espinela[9], from the Spanish author Vicente Espinel, where the association of 10 verses of eight syllables to a rhyme scheme a b b a a c c d d c is established as a fixed form.

3.9.2. Innovation through the association of formal and semantic characteristics

          Example: The Japanese haiku[10] in its canonical form, where a stanza formed by three verses of 5, 7, 5 syllables associates to the kigo, which consists of making reference to a season of the year.

3.9.3. Innovation through extension

          1st. Innovation through extending the number of stanzas. Example: Adding codas[11] to the sonnet.

          2nd. Innovation through extending the number of verses. Example: Two verses of 7 syllables are added to the haiku structure, thus obtaining a new figure which is made up of five lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables: the tanka[12].

3.9.4. Innovation through multiplication

          Example: The renga[13] or linked poem, which consists of a sequence of tankas. It is usually composed by several authors working together.

3.9.5. Innovation through condensation

          Example: The indriso[14], which comes from a process of condensing the stanzas of the sonnet.















3.9.6. Innovation through redistribution of the verse parts

          1. Redistribution of the number of verses in the stanza. Example: The sonnet[15] , whose stanzas originally had structures like 8-3-3 and 8-6, and that ended up consolidating under the form 4-4-3-3.

          2. Redistribution of the position of the stanzas. Examples: Indriso variants[16]. The following forms are derived from the initial form 3-3-1-1 (indriso or indriso in systole):

1-1-3-3: Indriso in diastole.
3-1-3-1: Indriso of two systoles.
1-3-1-3: Indriso of two diastoles.
3-1-1-3: Indriso in an internal systole.
1-3-3-1: Indriso in an internal diastole.

3.9.7. Innovation through imitation

          As in the case of the visual poems, which reproduce the form of physical objects.

          Example: The blavino[17], a poetic form devised by the Brazilian poets Juliana Ruas Blasina and Volmar Camargo Junior. This form reproduces the image of a triangle or pyramid, with a stanza structure 1-2-3-1-3-2-1. The first verse is formed by a single word and the following ones progressively increase their number of syllables, until reaching the central one line stanza, which is the longest poetic line. In the second half of the poem, the length of the lines decreases progressively until the last verse, which is also composed of a single word.

3.9.8. Innovation through opposition

          Example: The canon of the sonnet using hendecasyllables and the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDC DCD provokes the desire to make its structure more flexible in many authors. Thus, diverse variations arise both in the rhyme and in the verse measurements, such as the sonnet composed in alexandrine or free verses, etc.

3.9.9. Innovation through fusion of different objects

          1. Fusion of different poetic forms. Example: the decilyre[18], ideated by the Spanish poet Juan Ruiz de Torres, where the décima and the lyre structures (both forms coming from the Spanish literary tradition) appear fused together according to the following procedure:

          - Décima structure: 10 verses of eight syllables with the rhyme scheme a b b a a c c d d c.

          - Lyre structure: 5 verses that match verses of eleven and seven syllables, following the structure 7-11-7-7-11 and the rhyme scheme a B a b B.

          - Decilyre structure: It has 10 verses. The first five verses have the same measurement as the lyre, and the last five are a mirror image of the first five (7-11-7-7-11-11-7-7-11-7). The rhyme follows the décima rhyme scheme (a B b a A C c d D c). At the semantic level, the first four verses form a unit that introduces the theme, which will be developed and concluded in a single block or in several sub-stanzas within the last six verses.

          2. Fusion of different artistic supports: like in the cases where the word is combined with painting, music, photography, sculpture and computer graphic effects, etc. Some examples of this are the works of the Spanish poet Joan Brossa[19] and the Brazilian poet Augusto de Campos[20].


          The fascination of poetry is favored by the characteristic resources of a poem –and their combination– which work with rhythm, affectivity, idea, sensoriality, imagination, tone and style, the substitution of the usual with the unusual, the elements which produce catharses, sublimation, compensation, venting, integration of the contraries, disintegration of the contraries, those which talk about memory, of here and now, future, confession, drama, play, prayer and active challenge...

          We can also see that the different personal sensibilities lead us to value and reject one manifestation or the other, as in the case of those people who take a position in defense of rationalism or irrationalism, in defense of the regular or the irregular form. But, both Dante's triplets and Bretón's surrealism can sincerely move us. Why? One affirmation provided by psychology –from the German analyst Aniela Jaffé- may help us. It is an idea that reaches not only the poem, but the whole art scene and it would explain why aspects such as thinking and style, simplicity and complexity, time and space, realism and unrealism, are not enough to solve the dilemma of fascination and it turns into something like the matrix of the phenomenon: “Fascination is produced when the unconscious is touched”[21].


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15. G. BELTRAMI, PIETRO. Appunti sul sonetto come problema nella poesia e negli studi recenti . Rhythmica. Revista española de métrica comparada . Nº 1 (pp. 7-35). Dirección: José Domínguez Caparrós y Esteban Torre. Padilla Libros Editores & Libreros. Sevilla. 2003.

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