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When does a string of words become a poem?

I see a lot of so-called poems online, of course I have to see them because I’m tagged to a lot of them. Most times I keep quiet or better still, I waka pass without liking or commenting.

Yes I know its a bit bad on my side but what can I do? Most people don’t want to listen to constructive criticism. They prefer to dwell in their ego-island.

So permit to use this medium to express my thoughts on what I think poetry is.

Poetry is an emotional outpouring of a poet. It is when a poet writes about the itch that scratches his soul. It’s when a poet scribbles his thoughts and feelings about society, life, hate, love, sadness, poverty, culture and tradition, political freedom, racism, e.t.c.

A poem can be simple, it can be deep, it can contain a lot of complex words or simple words but it must have a message, a meaning.

So I really don’t know why a poet will use a dictionary to write, or uses big words without justification. I feel maybe he just wants us to show-off his familiarity with those words. Whatever be the reasons, it kills the natural flow of any poem.

A poem must have a message, it must evoke a feeling of awareness with the reader. If the reader can’t identify with your poem, if he can’t relate or understand what you are writing then you have just wasted your efforts.

I remembered the first time I attended Artmosphere – a program put together by Writehouse in Ibadan, someone said we should write using the things — experiences, ideas, emotions, etc around us.

You would not expect an European to write a poem using African settings and imageries, except it is necessary (and/or he has somehow gained familiarity of what an African setting is). This is where reading and studying becomes important for a poet.

Sticking to the environment you know — by personal experience or learning through reading, hearing, will help your poems attain originality and an unassailable sense of identity.

A poet must also have a voice. When I read a poem by Razaq, Shade, Don Malachy, KIS, Moses, Suedie or Kemjy, I don’t search for the writer because the poem whispers the name of the poet into my ear. They have succeeded in creating a voice for their poems. You must find your voice and your style.

According to Jumoke Verissimo, it is very important for a poet to know all the forms of poetry. If he wishes create his own style, good. But it is necessary to first learn about the forms.

That being said, never give up.

No man is an island of knowledge so please when you are corrected please take it in good faith. It makes you wise and more better at what you do.

Shalom, Happy poeting…

Readers’ responses:

You see growth is different from development, the moment a man knows the difference between the two, he has already found the route to carving a niche. Considering your point on “string of words become a poem”, almost all contemporary writers have passed through this stage. The escape routes of each writer is however very different. Many escaped through humility in their approach to learning and deployment of whatever is acquired to what they are doing, thereby excelling on the paths they have chosen.~ James Ademuyiwa

Correction should make the cord tougher and not strain it. I think they are better as poetic counterparts. ~ Oluwa Olamiposi Omoyele

Additional notes from Oluwasegun Oriogun:

Some people are eager to show off without realising that the most simple poems are the hardest to write. So called simple poems take a lot of thinking and meditation to write. Take for instance the nursery poem, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Many are led to think it is simple, but it is yet deep and has survived in our memories over the years.

Original article by Oluwasegun Romeo Oriogun (.

Compiled by SAm dE POet

Edited by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson.

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