Rules for Poetry

by Rick Lupert

Never use adjectives

unless you’re trying to describe something

and you don’t want to do it the hard way.

Never use the word “forever.”

It reminds people they’re going to die

and the last thing you need is people distracted

by their mortality during your poem.

Write what you know

unless you’re a fool, in which case

look to the internet, and write about something there.

Avoid vowels

and their angry sister

the letter Y.

Avoid cliché.

On the other hand . . .

Learn the difference between


epigrams and


Use as few words as possible.

In fact, hand out blank sheets of paper

and tell people it’s your finest work.

If you ever use the phrase “darkness in my soul”

be prepared for me to come to your house

and kill you.

If you’re going to write in form, do it right.

For example, as I understand it, a haiku

is eight hundred words written while

sitting on a cheesecake.

Line breaks are important,

but use them carefully. Once you’ve broken a line

its parents will never forgive you.

Finally, go to poetry workshops.

Sometimes they serve food and

you can’t write poetry if you’re dead

because you forgot to eat.

From Rattle #33, Summer 2010 (you can listen to the poet reading this poem at the link provided).