Poets are an odd, beautiful breed. Constantly observant and obsessed by details, we speak a language that can transcend time, cultures, religion, ideologies and places.

My poetic life started before I was even born, I believe, but really I’ve been a part-time poet for about a decade. At first, it was painting and drawing. I would imagine things, people and places, and then create those imaginations as pictures, comics and just anything painting.

Next in line was music. I'd compose songs and sing along. Write songs and record them over my dad's cassettes. 

As a child, I’d notice things the other children didn’t; I saw the world as a place filled with secrets hidden in trees and the birds of the air, in-between colors of the sky, stagnant water bodies, frogs, people's eyes and my skin. I see beyond the texture of fabrics, furniture and everything around me. Even whispers could mean something else to my arty ears. I could make a world out of the smallest moment. I still do. 

Being a poet feels like having two personalities (if not more) — one in this world, and one in some other. Does this sound like you?

But is poetry even relevant? Some ask. I say, who says poetry is dead? It has many different faces: academic and canonical, contemporary, conversational, amorphous and timeless. It’s even on the dirty streets in Aba City. 

Look around you, poetry is everywhere around you. You just haven't noticed yet how relevant poetry is to mankind.

There are so many different kinds and styles of poetry (I'll dwell more on this in subsequent articles), and there are so many different ways to be a poet. And for the record, there are no rules. Okay, there are rules, actually. But they restrict. So, let's pretend there are no rules. Alright?

In fact, poets have a whole playground before them (life!). Talk about poetic licence. But hey! You don't dare abuse it.

The journey's been an interesting one, if you ask me. Today, I have a two collections of poems, I publish widely on literary blogs, social media handles and my diary (still), and I read to audiences in events, poetry club readings and family too. 

It’s amazing, beautiful, and nerve-wracking — and it came with a lot of work. Poetry writing is not as easy as it seem. Takes a lot of hard work, creativity and passion. Heck! It takes obsession. 

So, you want to be a poet? Here's my one Kobo advice.

Read, read, read.

When I was in secondary school, before I became really serious about writing poetry, I do borrow books from classmates, though prose works, I draft poems from interesting story-lines, conversations and scenes. I was exposed to tons of authors, themes, writing styles and cultures.

Shakespeare's sonnets struck something in me; it was Elizabethan and intoxicating. You know, old English and all those 'thee', 'thou' stuff. I developed an intimate relationship with his work, and by doing so I wrote many Shakespeare-styled sonnets in my teenage days.

But I didn't stop at the English guy. I read everything — the poets put before me in literature classes and the beautiful books lining the shelves in my school library. I would sneak out of science classes to read poems and stories in the library. The obsession was real.

Though, then, I didn’t like most of poem I read, they were abstract, too deep to assimilate, way too beyond my boy mind, but the point was that I took the time to understand its approach and technique, and that allowed me to think on how my own voice might sound.

Oh, and lot of the time, poets getting their wings emulate other poets’ work that they really like, and while that sounds like plagiarism, it’s not. I've mirrored the works of renown poets. Would read them and then try write something similar, using my own language, style and approach. It’s totally okay, and normal in the early beginning. Eventually, with enough writing and reading and listening to yourself, you will find authenticity and your own voice. 

I am always working on my own. But seriously: read. It’s not enough to write. 

Forget Rules! Reinvent them!

People say a lot of things about poetry. 
It should rhyme! 
Hell no! It definitely doesn’t need to!
It should be in couplets. 
In should be confessional. 
It should be political. 
It should be about nature. 
It should be written in unknown tongues. 
It must have deep meanings.
It should be formatted a certain way. 
It should have titles. 
It should be relatable.

Sighs! Such rules bore creativity to extinction. 

They help, especially, to win contests and for academic purposes, but do not be bound by these restricting ideas; poetry’s real power is found in its ability to Morph and Evolve. And while I prefer certain kinds of poetry to others, I will always defend a Poet’s Right to Create the Poem they Want.

Create the poetry you want to read, not the poetry they want you to write. Don't, in a bid to please the old order, limit your poetry to rules.

There are no rules, and if someone tells you there are, they’re probably not evolving quickly enough.

But don't be dumb! Rules are rules where rules rules.

Write, Write, Write.

Someone once asked me; 'How do you write these poems?'
I smiled and replied; 'I write by writing'

Don't leave those creative ideas stuck in your head. Let them all out! Write! As soon as they drop, grab a pen and jotter and scribble down those words. Don't wait until they are amazing punchlines. Alright?

Again, don’t write for an end-goal — write for you. There’s just no way to say this more clearly: A poet must write as much as they can. That doesn’t mean for hours a day, of course. What I do mean to say is that you must dedicate some of your time to the craft.

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It should be a job. Your job. You should dedicate time enough, to write, at least, as many times as possible per day. Where's the passion, if you don't write daily?

Writing is like breathing, you must breathe daily to continue living. 

Writing is like the body; it has to be conditioned to grow and change. Your writing ritual depends entirely on you. But you will never be a better writer without writing (often) — even if what you are writing is bad or you dislike it. You will write through the badness and into the good. Amen?

Eventually, through writing, you’ll discover what feels right and sounds like you, authentically. 

Again, I repeat; don’t write for an end-goal (to get published, or to impress someone — although that never hurts). Write for you!

I'll pause here for today. Next week, I'll continue with this article. We will talk about revision, going wild with thoughts, poetry styles, carving a niche for your pen and how to make your voice heard.

If you crave to be tutored on this poetry thing, you can join my Facebook Group, Poemify by clicking HERE.

Do have a great weekend. And don't forget to put into lines and verses, your weekend's activities. Poetry is life, remember.

- Stefn Sylvester Anyatonwu

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