Poetry's a tough thing to do well, both here on Everything and in the real world. This has a lot to do with the fact that people like what they like and, for the most part, don't put much thought into why a poem strikes a particular chord. Words can float or sink depending on variables that are hard to quantify and the consensus seems to be that it works when it works and it sucks when it sucks and the line between the two is negligible.
We've got some awesome poets here on E2 and some not so awesome ones. Most strictly poetic works seem to float on the lower (though still positive) end of the reputation spectrum, the poetically 'good' ones coming in a little higher than the bad stuff.
What we need is a guideline - 'Don't Node Crap' doesn't help in this subjective of an environment and noders first dipping their feet into the murky waters surrounding poetry are likely to be discouraged from venturing any further. In an effort to prevent that, I give you the Top
Five Six SEVEN Mistakes Made By Beginning Poets.
- Plot. Have one.
Know what you're trying to describe and include as much of it as you can. You're trying to evoke an image, here - make sure your audience has something to latch onto. This leads directly into:
- Emotion ain't everything.
There are only so many ways to say someone broke your heart. It's been done, and unless you've found a particularly new and vivid way of calling someone a homewrecker, don't.
- Meter. Use it.
...or at least don't ignore it. Words need to flow from one into the other and there needs to be a swing to it - if you're throwing tons of hard syllables in there in oddly broken rhythms no one's going to bother. You don't want your readers straining - they should enjoy the process as much as the outcome and good metering is important to that. Oh, and also: if you're going to rhyme your lines, do it consistently - don't rhyme two lines and nothing else. And alliteration is a needle not a mallet - use it carefully. Strings of words beginning with B don't make poetry; it's just...cute.
- Be concise.
Don't say the same thing three ways, in a row, one to each line. Pick one. And while we're on the subject of format, keep your line widths nice and wide. Don't worry about the aesthetics of space until you're sure your words are bending the right way. If you think a poem flows better broken down into two to three word lines, try solidifying your meter - unless you know what you're doing such short lines come across as trite, abrupt and difficult to read.
I can't emphasize this enough. Write, sleep on it and look again in the morning. Check yourself. Ask for opinions. Take the time to ensure your message is getting across without seeming like a blunt instrument - pick a theme and go with it and save your new ideas for a new poem. Stream of consciousness might be easier and seem more raw to you but it's blatantly obvious to the rest of us and we aren't quite so impressed. It's never (ok, rarely) that easy.
- Ask for help.
Everything is a community and we will do our best to help you with what you've got on paper if you ask - that's what your scratch pad is for. We also have a user group for all things poetic: see e2verse for shoulders perfect for leaning on and asking questions of.
- And finally: Don't be that guy.
Very few of us who write poetically do only that and that's mostly because a. we're talented, multifaceted individuals, b. our merit would suffer and c. we don't want to be that guy. Nobody likes that guy. You know, the guy who says 'if nobody gets my poetry it's far too sophisticated for them.' Guess what? If nobody gets your poetry you're doing something very wrong and need to change. Ask for advice from the poetic sorts here and listen to them. I guarantee they're only trying to make you a better writer and are NOT out to get you.
Keep in mind: rules are meant to be broken. Some of the best poetry here breaks most or all of these rules but you need to know what they are before you start toying with them and you need to break them for a reason.
Keep a cool head, and remember: some people just don't like poetry or don't feel it belongs here. Accept that (and the downvotes associated with that) and keep at it. You'll be fine. Don't forget to breathe.