A Poem’s Most Important Element
And it’s not what you think it is
Imagine you’re sitting down at your desk. Mine was passed down to me from my mother. I received it as a gift when I moved into my house a decade ago. As a 12-year old boy, it’s the same desk I sat behind, fingers steadied on a typewriter, an early glimpse into my future writing pursuits.
Maybe you don’t write at a desk, or don’t write at all. Instead, you love to read poetry.
And if you’re a poet, maybe you don’t perch yourself behind a desk. Maybe it’s a table in the kitchen or a cushy chair in the corner of your local library. But just imagine you’re at a wood desk (mine is solid oak, 33 years old).
You look down in front of you. A blank sheet of paper is haunting you with it’s overly white space.
Where do you begin? What do you write? What should be the reader’s focus?
However you begin, whatever you write, you should hook the reader. Captivate their mind. Not just from the opening line, but for the poem’s entire length and breadth. Verse after verse, across every gap of white space.
That’s nice and all, but how do you do that? What do you focus on first? What is the most critical element of a poem?
It’s not the style, nor is it the voice. It’s also not the theme. Or whether you choose to rhyme.
The secret of a great poem is emotion.
You must craft a poem that evokes emotion so it is worthy of praise, where it can live on through the annals of literature.
The reader must feel an emotional connection with your words and what they convey.
But don’t think of emotion as the most common feelings: happiness, sadness, anger, hatred, disgust, fear.
There’s plenty of other emotions, which as a writer, you should be eager to explore. This list shows a wider range of human emotion:
People are not robots, as they experience multiple emotions throughout their day. Tap into that emotional power. Engage the reader beyond the words on the page.
To write strong poetry, a poet should make a reader feel one of the myriad emotions.
If you can master the art of deep emotional engagement, then you will breathe your poem to life.