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Build a wide bridge to your audience.

During an online exchange about improving poetry, the author was asked: “Would you say then, that no poem without an appeal to the senses is worthy of the name?” This question was based on an ongoing dialogue with a gentleman who writes very philosophical, relatively unapproachable poetry. Having studied many theories of psychology and personality typing, this author has come to the conclusion that reaching and truly communicating with a wide audience takes a lot of work. It doesn’t come naturally. Our natural tendency as poets is to talk to ourselves and relate in a way that we want to be related to. But people are different. If you want an audience that is the general public, rather than just people like you, you must take the steps to reach them. They might meet you half way, but most readers don’t want to go even that far. That’s why so much modern academic poetry is ignored by or offends the general public. Too much poetry is about the poet rather than the audience. It is about the poet’s circle and immediate environment, which is seldom normal to the average reader. If you want to reach the average person, you have to use many of your available tools. The gentleman who was a poet/philosopher never used a variety of tools and approaches in his poetry. He always used the same format and relatively unapproachable writing style. Now, in his short stories, he was a different writer, so this exchange was an exhortation to bring more of his writing tools to his poetry. One of those tools was an appeal to the senses. But it is not the only tool.

If you seek to communicate ideas and stories or beauty through your poetry, you have to try to connect with your audience in multiple ways. The first step is to know your audience. Being concrete and using sensory data helps with a general audience. Being clear and concise is a good habit. Using language the audience relates to and not demanding they read you with a dictionary and half a dozen reference books in hand is important. Making your poem mnemonically friendly is important, so use repetition and rhyme and meter. In short, build a bridge to your audience. Build the bridge as wide as you can, You want them to “get” it.

See Also: Know your audience., Seek out devices to interest your audiences., Stimulate the readers’ senses.

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