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Buy the tools of the trade.

Besides the obvious need for some medium of composition such as a computer or pen and paper, there are three tools that are highly useful in writing poetry. The first is an ordinary dictionary, the second a thesaurus, and the third a rhyming dictionary. Some suggest other tools, as well. Peter Berryman also suggests an atlas and an encyclopedia. Perhaps an almanac might be of use? If you are not terribly familiar with what reference books are available, go to the library at a quiet time and talk to the reference librarian.

Dictionary - Specifically, consider an unabridged dictionary. The weighty tomes of the Oxford English Dictionary are excellent tools, but are Anglo-centric and may not be everything an American poet could hope for in a dictionary.

Thesaurus - If you’re overusing the same word, a thesaurus is a handy thing to have. If you are techno-centric, you can use an on-line or software-integrated version, or you can get a paper version. These books also help expand the vocabulary by presenting shades of nuance.

Rhyming Dictionary - Can you rhyme anything with “Oranges”? You may favor a form of poetry that doesn’t require much in the way of rhyming. Free Verse, Haiku, Blank Verse are all forms that do not necessitate rhyming. That doesn’t mean that you won’t dabble in rhymed poetry. A Limerick can come in handy for lampooning friends, and as is mentioned in the Experiment! Diversify! tip, it’s important to try your hand in different forms to make yourself a better all-around poet or songwriter.

Database - You need a way to track your poetry. Whether you write songs or other poetry, whether you submit for publication or squirrel them away for your own enjoyment, you should have some form of database. Now a database does not have to be computerized. The old library card catalogs were databases made from paper cards in drawers. You can use 3”x5” cards or a modern computerized relational database management system, but you need to track your poems and what you do with them. It can be as simple as copies of the poems in file folders, maybe with an index card attached with publication submission information. For more information on suggested tracking, please see Appendix A.

Market Information - Writers Digest Books among others puts out books listing publishers who accept poetry or songs. If you are going to publish, you’ll need good information about where to send your poetry, what each place accepts, and what their rules for submission are.

So, these are a few tools. Keep your eyes open for others that can help the poet, and you can update us with your ideas.

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