Forget Everything Your English Teacher Ever Taught You

Before you can learn how to write bad poetry, you have to unlearn everything everyone has ever taught you about so-called “good poetry.”

Chances are, if you’ve ever met someone who absolutely hates poetry or thinks poetry is dumb, we can look back in their life and pinpoint the exact moment this opinion was formed. 

In 99% of all the people I’ve talked to that hate poetry, it usually stems down to one thing: a terrible poetry writing assignment from an English teacher they didn’t like.

I am someone who has loved reading and writing my entire life – and even I had some pretty awful experiences with English teachers and poetry. 

Of course, not all English teachers are terrible. I had many wonderful and inspiring English teachers in my life. There are plenty of good people in the world who are simultaneously classically trained in literature.

But there is always that one teacher who gets so caught up in the “Rules” of poetry that they unintentionally ruin it for many students. 

So, today I want you to forget everything you’ve ever learned about poetry. 

Forget everything you’ve ever been told about what a poem looks like. Forget everything your English teachers ever said about what makes a poem good. Forget everything you’ve ever learned about iambic pentameter, rhyme schemes, haikus, and sonnets. 

Seriously, forget it all. 

None of these things will help you write a poem. 

Sure, they might be fun to learn later, after you already know how to write bad poetry – but for now, we need to let go of all the things we might remember from when we learned about poetry in school. 

Here are some rules of poetry you need to forget:

  • that poetry has to rhyme
  • that poems need to follow a structure or pattern (this includes sonnets, cinquains, sestinas, etc.) 
  • that a poem needs any kind of meter, iambic or otherwise
  • that a poem should have uniform lines and stanzas
  • what makes poems good or bad

These things destroy all of our creativity and make it impossible for us to use poetry to its fullest potential. Instead of us thinking about what we want to say, we get too hung up on how we should say it. 

Go wild and enjoy every minute of writing your poems. Forget the idea that poetry has to fit into some box. The truth is that everyone has their own idea of what makes a poem “work” – which means there’s no right or wrong way to write one as long as it works for you.

There is only one thing we should think about when writing a poem: What words can I write down as quickly as possible?

That’s it. 

“Write Fast” is my only rule for writing poetry, and we’ll cover that next. 

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