Internet Poetry Guidelines

The internet is a hotbed of terrible poetry.

These days it seems as though tenth-grade English teachers world-wide are using the internet as a dumping ground for all of the poetry they get that isn't quite good enough for lining the cat box. We here at, always the civic-minded types, are providing here - completely free of charge - this set of guidelines for any aspiring poet. Any time you feel the urge to write a poem, consult this list first and make sure we haven't told you not to do it. If you're breaking any of these rules, then, hey; the world will be a better place without your poem in it. And, after all, that's what it's all about: making the world a better place.

So don't say we never did anything for you.


Don't write angsty poems. Take my word for it; no matter how bad you think you have it, you don't. You're not worse off than anyone else, and you aren't "deeply troubled" any more than is anyone else who writes this slop. And, even if, for some odd reason, you were that badly off, don't count on anyone being able to tell the difference based on a few whiny poems. Nobody's written readable angsty poems since Emily Dickinson - history's oldest adolescent girl.

Don't write goth poems. Honestly, these are the only things in the world dumber than angst poems. The only reason they're not quite as annoying is because they're slightly more fun to laugh at. Here's a tip: if the only thing you can think to write a poem about is how your dark master is going to rise up and devour all of our souls, don't write a poem. Go play tennis. Buy more black lipstick. Sacrifice a goat. Do anything other than write a poem.

Don't make every line of your poem rhyme. Avoid this even more if it's supposed to be a serious poem. It only takes three or four rhyming lines to make anyone reading a poem incapable of paying any attention to anything about the poem except for how goofy it is that every line rhymes. And once the rhymes start getting seriously forced - as they inevitably will in any poem longer than five lines - it gets even worse.

Don't even try to write a serious limerick. Some formats are not well-suited to any poem that isn't supposed to be funny, and limericks are the top of the heap. And, while I'm talking about limericks, don't waste anybody's time writing yet another rip-off of "There once was a man from Nantucket." We've heard it already.

Don't exaggerate yourself. Let's face facts, here. Your suffering is not greater than everyone else's, your troubles are not worse, your thoughts are not deeper. Any statements along the lines of "nobody could possibly understand me / my thoughts / my feelings / what I've been through" should be avoided at all costs. They'll just make you sound like a self-absorbed retard. Not to mention that they tend to lead naturally into angst poetry, which, as we already know, is a no-no.

Don't try to make political statements. Let's try an experiment on this one. Go up to a random stranger on the street, and say hello to him. If he responds, give him a lengthy discourse about politics. His reaction should be roughly the same as the reaction of anyone intending to read a poem who ends up with a lengthy discourse on politics. Get the picture?

Don't write poems about how much you hate a specific person. You're losing your audience on this one. This might work alright for a poem you intend to post on the wall somewhere where everyone will know the person you're talking about (though, honestly, it'll still suck), but, on the internet, where nobody even knows who you are, it's a dead-end. No one wants to read about how much you hate someone he's never met. Love poems about a specific person are almost as bad, but get off on a technicality: namely, that love poems are better than hate poems just in general.

Don't use any foreign words without good reason. This is doubly true if the foreign words in question are not written in Latin characters, and triply true if the language is Japanese. No one cares that you passed Spanish class in high school, and even fewer people care that you took Japanese lessons so you could watch Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing and make out a word every fifteen scenes.

Use proper capitalisation. Nobody's going to think you're E. E. Cummings because you don't capitalise things. And if you've just opened Outlook Express intending to be hoity-toity and take issue with my capitalising "E. E. Cummings," well, I'm right anyhow. So put your capital letters where they belong.

Use proper capitalisation part 2. I don't care if it is how the people in the AOL chat rooms type, poetry in all-caps is obnoxious and juvenile. A side-lesson to be learned from this is that nobody in an AOL chat room should be your role model under any circumstance.

Control your line breaks. Yes, I know it's "in" nowadays to write poetry with no rhythm or metre, and I know that weird line breaks were popularised many years ago. But there's a difference between using one's line breaks artistically and simply throwing the damn things around wherever. And if you look at your poem and see several lines that are one word long, you're most likely in the latter group. Besides, no matter what you're doing with your line breaks, Mallarmé did it first. And better.

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