Thursday, September 28, 2017

Answer to a Young Poet

(Answer to a series of questions sent to New Pop Lit.)

The best way for a poet to stand out is to write better poetry. Most of the poems which editors like ourselves receive are bad prose divided into lines. Poets forget that poetry is meant to be heard. Ideally, in our eyes, it should have a sense of music: pace, rhythm, and yes, the occasional rhyme. Off-beat rhyme. Unpredictable rhymes in the middle of a sentence. Plus other poetic tools like alliteration, of which too many poets seem never to have heard. The lost concept of euphony. That's what we look for-- poems meant to be read out loud, which are striking or moving or powerful when recited out loud. Which like a river or a hurricane build momentum and power and meaning with each stanza.

That there are a million poets out there struggling to be heard means the new poet needs to think beyond what's current and accepted. Create the new. Go past what other poets are doing. Any art is, or should be, in constant flux. Always changing. What the standard is now will not be the standard ten or twenty years from now. The key is to innovate. Think ahead of everyone else.

If you want to be the best, you have to know the best. The new poet should read the best poets-- the real best, of every variety. From Edgar Allan Poe to Emily Dickinson to Sylvia Plath. Ginsberg and Berryman, Maya Angelou and Dylan Thomas. Shakespeare, for the use of language, of course. Your brain will subconsciously synthesize all of it.

The new poet should attend and read at poetry open mics in the area. That's where the excitement in today's poetry world can be found. A lot of the performed poems will be hip-hop rhyming poems-- but not all of them. Besides, hip-hop is popular for a reason-- because it's easily remembered and makes an immediate connection with the audience. We believe future poetry will be a fusion of the street and academic styles. The best of both worlds.

A live audience in a hectic venue like a bar or coffee shop is the best way for a poet to test whether or not a poem makes a connection. Does it stir the audience in some way? Feedback is all. Reading with and against other poets is the best way to sharpen one's work.

We also suggest the new poet put together a simple zine or chapbook of his or her poems-- even if it's made on a copy machine. This gives the poet something to hand out at readings. Or sold, for as little as a buck. The idea being to use every available way to get the word out about yourself and your work.

Publishing in esteemed journals like Poetry magazine or The New Yorker is an opportunity open to very few. Online journals like ours provide an alternative. They can be found via listings like, or the literary magazine listings at Or simply google "poetry magazines" or "literary magazines" or "poetry listings" and scores of addresses will come up.

To the new poet: Good luck!

Karl Wenclas
New Pop Lit