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Poetry Magnum Opus

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The Essay



The more poetry I write, the more I realize that the craft of writing is the same for poetry as it is writing an essay, an article, a blog, a short story or a novel.  The same tools are available.  However, each has its unique personality.   I was recently asked to review an essay, a genre of writing I know little about.  College kids write them all of the time, well I was in college 59 years ago and I don't remember ever writing an essay.   So I went googling.

An essay "is a written argument, readable in one sitting in which some idea is developed and supported."  Gordon Harvey, Assistant Director, Harvard Exploratory Writing Program.  

OK so here are the primary elements of the Essay:

  1. it is written
  2. it is an argument, The idea should be true but arguable, not obviously true.
  3. it is readable in one sitting 
  4. an idea is developed. The idea must be limited enough that it can be argued and supported in a short composition.
  5. the idea is supported through exploration and documentation
  6. the essay begins with the motivation behind the idea, the why are we writing.
  7. exploring the topic or idea requires us to contemplate the alternatives to our view.
  8. the purpose of the essay is to convince, using honed writing skills as well as evidence. The evidence must be concrete and explicitly connected to the topic.
  9. the progress of the essay should be fluid and connected.
  10. there should be a final summary.   

Clearly this is a different animal from writing poetry but we might find ourselves compelled to write an essay someday and now we have a guide.   

Keep writing,   ~~Tink


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I can remember writing essays (among other writings like book reports) in high school English. The ones that come to mind were often along the lines of compare and contrast a certain character from a certain novel with a character from a different novel. I've always liked the essay when it comes to writings.

A bit off topic but since you mentioned tools, what I've noticed is that since the beginning of the electronic age certain writings, especially "articles" in mainstream online news periodicals, have gotten sloppier. It's almost like they used to have editors who checked for typos, spelling, and grammar before publication, and now they don't. It's as if journalists are just writing and publishing directly from their pc's at home as opposed to submitting the writing to an editorial process the way they did, back in the day, before a piece went to print.

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Tony,  You have a good point.  I think with the advent of the internet writing has gotten sloppier.  Texts have their own shortcut. "i luv u"   actually they use the heart emoji which we don't have here. We are so old school, thank God.  There is even an emoji genre of writing.   As for poetry which is our focus here, "anyone can write a poem" is quite literally true, but a poem is not necessarily poetry.  Plus classic terms are being bastardized.  And if it is in print, it must be true.  Scary.


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