Recently someone asked what kind of training and skill he would need to become a poetry editor. If he had wanted an editorial job with a publishing company, he would most likely need a high degree of English or literature, but no, he wanted to freelance. Since he had a poetry book in print, he thought that gave him enough experience to be an “expert,” even though he had self-published his book with no input from anyone!
He would not be the first poet or writer who thought the same before billing his services as a writing consultant. To be good at what he does, however, might require a little more effort.
As I started to make a list of the job skills or experience needed, I realized that the same suggestions apply to poets who want the best for their own poems. So, whether you want to upgrade your skills as you revise your poetry or have the information and insights needed to edit poems by other poets, these suggestions should help:
Read – all types, forms, and styles of poetry.
Focus – on the beauty of the classics and the freshness in the works of prize-winning contemporary poets.
Write – lots of poetry.
Study – poetic techniques and terminology.
Market – your poems to literary journals and e-zines you like.
Get a grip – on English grammar and punctuation, but also the concerns, worries, and needs that most people have.
Listen – to the individual voice that can be heard in your own poems and someone else’s.
Subscribe – to poetry journals and e-zines you like and also periodicals such as Poets & Writers magazine (ad in the right column.)
Read – your poems and poems by other poets – aloud, noticing the sound echoes and musicality.
Experiment – by playing with different forms, different approaches often possible for each poem, and different ways of breaking lines in free verse.
Play – with words. Play with ideas. Ask “what if?”
Learn – to trust your own judgment, to correct errors with care, to respect the voice and opinions of other poets, and to keep original copies of every poem in case the edits or revisions go too far.
Have fun – reading, writing, and playing with poetry.
© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved.