By Stevie Knight
As I’m sitting in front of the large, sliver Mac, I look at the bright screen, reading one of the worst poems I have ever read in my life. I shake my head and hit the thumbs down button. A feeling of pity washes over me. I begin thinking about how many people have done that to my poetry, and if they felt bad like I did in that moment.
For about two years, I have been submitting my own poetry to various journals and magazines, always resulting in a rejection. Now, I am one of the poetry editors working on FLARE. It’s a funny thing being on both sides of the situation now. Not only am I hoping someone will hit the thumbs up for me, I’m handing out twenty something thumbs down per day. Being a writer and editor of the same genre can be challenging. As a poet, I want to be the best out there. So when reviewing poems, I either hate it because it sucks, or I hate it because it’s better than my own. Going into FLARE, I was nervous that my own biases would get in the way of choosing the best work to feature. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to put jealousy aside and really focus of the content.
Through reading a variety of poems and genre, there are a lot of things I have taken away from each one, good or bad. Mostly the bad. I look at some of the worst ones and realized that I need to spell words right and make sense. From the somewhat bad ones, I learn that my line breaks need to make sense, and there should be no clichés. You’d be surprised at the amount of spelling errors and confuse your and you’re. It happens more than you think. After learning that I needed to know English grammar, I started learning things that could help me with my own writing.
Often when I’m reading a poem, I realized that if the opening stanza wasn’t good or powerful, I stopped reading the entire poem. I went back into my older poems and read them like I did the submissions for FLARE. I saw that some of my first stanzas didn’t immediately catch my attention. More of these type of observations happen daily now.
I’m now able to take a look into my own writing and think if I was given it has a submission, would it be worthy? If the answer is no, I go back to revise and see what is and isn’t working. I’m able to understand how editors look at my work and some thoughts they may have. But I still have sympathy for those who get a rejection, because the writer in me is always present.
In order to become a talented writer, you have to first read. A lot. Creating your own unique writing style involves reading a wide variety of genres, styles, and techniques. How I began creating my writing voice is through pulling techniques from a few writers and pieces that I connected with and merging all of it into something that felt like me. I think it is important for every writer to read a genre that they aren’t a fan of every so often. I do this to remind myself what works for me and what does. Sometimes I even find stylistic choices I really like in pieces that I can’t stand. The most important thing to do as a writer is to read everything that you can.