The poet’s art

‘The poet’s art must be learned.’ Frances Stillman: The poet’s manual and rhyming dictionary.

  • Poets are born, not made.
  •  Poets are made, not born.

These two statements seem contradictory. I contend that there is an element of truth in both.

I certainly agree that poets need to be born with a certain aptitude for language or they will struggle with the demands of poetry.  Good poets are naturally gifted in this area. Nor has everyone the necessary inspiration to write effective poetry.

At the same time, I acknowledge that competent poets need to have their skills developed. Poetry writing can be taught, or learned, in a systematic way. The technical demands of writing a sonnet, for example, can be taught. Not everyone will be able to write one nor will many write classic sonnets that will last for centuries. Just like I am able to play a basic tune on a piano but I will never be a great concert pianist lauded the world over.

What I have enjoyed and deeply appreciated while studying the writing of poetry during my Master of Arts in Creative Writing course over the last year is the deliberate and systematic methods that have been employed in the teaching of poetry.  We have learned many technical skills that are the building blocks of good poetry. I am starting to master meter and rhyme. I have learned to write sonnets, sestinas and near rhymes, and a host of other skills. Even today my wife commented on how dramatically my poetic style has changed over the last year. The next few years will be exciting as I further develop these skills with regular, deliberate practice.

Good writing.


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