Ask the Editor...

Any advice for beginner poets, and what’s the deal with capitalization?

Q.  I love to write (mostly journaling and short stories) and just started writing poetry within the last year or so.  Any advice for beginner poets?   Juliette, Dayton, OH

A.  Absolutely!  Pay a visit to your local library or bookstore and delve into books of poetry by accomplished poets.  Familiarize yourself with different styles and forms and decide which of them suit you best.  Look for ways in which they employ poetic techniques and elements.  Once you find two or three poets whose work you really like and can connect with, read lots more of it.  You will find the poetic works of skilled poets to be the best teaching tools around!  

Q.  What’s the deal with capitalization?  When should it be used at the beginning of a line?  Chris, Norfolk, VA

A.  Classical poets who wrote in metered verse in stanzaic form typically capped the first word of every line.  With the increasing popularity of contemporary forms, however, capitalization has become far less standard.  The general rule of thumb is to be consistent.  If your lines reflect complete thoughts (containing a subject and predicate) and you are punctuating them with periods, then you are free to only cap the first word of the “sentence” and leave the rest of the lines lowercased.  At the same, it is perfectly acceptable (and always a safe route) to cap the first word of every line as long as it is done consistently throughout.  For meaningful purposes, some poets leave the entire poem lowercased, which, again, is fine as long as the lowercasing is consistent.  Always avoid randomness and be conscious of where you use capitalization.