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Memorable Poetry

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January 2010
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What Makes a Poem Memorable? 

A poem becomes memorable for many different reasons.  It can touch a person’s heart. It can startle the imagination. It can inlighten. It can be humourous.

One poet said that “ a good poem surprises your senses, shakes you awake, stirs your emotions, and startles your imagination. Poetry helps us widen our vision and our hearts.” 

Contemporary poets Charles Simic, Billy Collins, Kay Ryan are Poet Laureates who have written memorable poems about a plethoria of subjects. We remember their poetry for many different reasons, such as the expressed meaning, imagery, choice of topic, use of poetic devices, and the emotional response evoked in the reader. Clearly, there are many reasons why readers find certain poems memorable.
A poem that is memorable tends to have certain attributes or characterists. These include:
  •  Originality/authenticity. A memorable poem is unique. It is like no other you have read.
  •  Emotion. A memorable poem evokes an emotional response in the reader. It generates a reaction.
  •  Meaning. A memorable poem expresses a new insight, understanding, revelation, or different perspective about your life or the world around you.
  •  Memorable. A memorable poem can be read over and over. It is worth remembering.
  •  Entertaining/pleasurable. A memorable poem is pleasurable to read.
  •  Timelessness. A memorable poem can be read at anytime, in any era, even in a bygone era, and still have meaning and still seem current.

 Pablo Neruda wrote many memorable poems, including this one:

If You Forget Me

By Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

A Few Suggestions

The best way for an aspiring poet to move in the direction of writing memorable poetry is to do the following:

  1. Read poems by a variety of traditional, modern, and contemporary poets.
  2. Learn the poetic devices and use them, especially simile, metahphor, imagery, symbolism, and alliteration.
  3. Find your voice and use it.
  4. Be authentic. Write about people, topics, events, and observations that are important to you.
  5. Write from the heart. In other words, be honesty with yourself. Don’t be afraid to write about how you really feel or think about something.
  6. Show, don’t tell. Use concrete and specific language to express thoughts, feelings, and action. Use imagery, language that appeals to the senses to describe a setting.
  7. Make every word count. A memorable poem is often short and to the point. So, make every word have a purpose or function in the poem.
  8. Base your poem on a single topic. For instance, you can write about love, death, aging, or a social taboo such as suicide or abuse.

1 Comment

  1. neruda is a nice choice

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