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Leonard Cohen, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Gertrude Stein . . . these are only a few well-known literary figures who have written wonderful works of poetry. Poetry used to be more widely regarded within literary circles, whereas today it is harder to become well-known as a successful poet, let alone get published. Many poets toil for years trying to find a publisher for their work. The true poets do not give up and are known for their persistence, self-discipline and tenacity. They have the ability to express ideas and thoughts poetically, create characters and depict scenes that we grow to love and admire. They are masters of the lyrical word and have a way of describing everyday things in very extraordinary ways. Aristotle alleged that poetry uses words in their fullest potential, and creates representations more complete and more meaningful than nature can give us in the raw.

Poets write original poetry for both publication and personal satisfaction. They select subject matter based on personal interest or sometimes receive a divine inspiration or muse that sets them off. Every poet has his or her own method and style of creation. Some work with intricate and sophisticated outlines, following traditional form and meter (such as iambic pentameter), whereas others work off the top of their head. Many people underestimate the amount of serious thought and work put into writing poetry. A good poem is filled with imagery, figures of speech and other literary tools that make important connections within a poem, finely weaving ideas together.

Poetry truly impacts people's lives. It is a learned skill that must be practiced and perfected over time. Traditional poetry is full of figures of speech, such as metaphors, irony, onomatopoeia, and follows strict stanza length and rhythm, whereas a lot of modern poetry is free verse. Poets often base their work on personal experiences, although their work often includes some form of research. Poets are also quite familiar with rewriting and revising their material. A good poem, like a good piece of prose needs a good edit.

For any poet to be taken seriously, they must produce a portfolio of their best published work. A good way for poets to build a portfolio is to submit poems to non-paying literary and poetry journals (sort of like volunteering) and make a name for themselves. Also, entering poetry contests and joining poetry reading groups and circles will help poets perfect their craft. Poets must be willing to put in lots of work before any positive results are visible. The more one writes, the better confidence, skill and ability one will attain.

In order to supplement a steady income, most poets work part-time in other jobs or occupations. Unless one is independently wealthy, it is economically hard to live as a poet. When poets become established and successful, they may begin writing full-time since they earn enough money from published works -- the dream of every true writer. Again, poets must learn to accept rejection and not take it personally. The majority of poets work for years, if not a whole lifetime before they get noticed. Finally, if you ask a poet how to become a good writer, they will basically tell you to start writing as much poetry as you can. Those who write poetry are poets.
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Saint Leo University was among the first colleges or universities to teach on military bases and has been educating servicemen and women since 1973.
Programs Offered:
  • MA: Creative Writing - Non-Fiction
  • MA: Creative Writing - Poetry
  • MA: Creative Writing - Fiction



  Interests and Skills  
Good poets know how to express ideas beautifully, creatively and clearly in writing. They create characters, depict landscapes and describe awesome images that readers grow to love, hate and know by heart. They are usually knowledgeable in a particular area of interest, which is usually evident in their work. Serious self-discipline is required to work because no one will tell you when or how hard to work. Poets should like the idea of entertaining an audience through their writing. Finally, poets must be able to withstand rejection and have confidence in their abilities as a poet.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Conceive of and write poetry and other material for publication
  • Research similar literature and poetry to establish ideas, factual content and to obtain other necessary information
  • May organize ideas for an outline
  • May choose and develop a theme or subject about which to write
  • Write poetry for publication to inform, educate and entertain
  • Write and rewrite work until editors, producers and writers are personally satisfied with it
  • Revise after reviewing project, or getting views from an editor
  • Initiate and maintain contact with appropriate publishers or producers
  • Work with graphic artists and illustrators for accompanying graphics and book covers
  • Use a computer or typewriter to write poems
  • There is no such thing as a typical day for a poet. Ideally, a poet would sit in front of an awe inspiring scene, most often in nature, and ponder the beauty of the world while they compose beautiful works of poetry. However, the Romantic period ended centuries ago and these days there are so many kinds of poets, each working on their own schedule, setting their own hours. They spend much of their time working alone, thinking and writing at home or wherever they are comfortable. The pressure of deadlines, long solitary hours, rejections, unwilling publishers and sporadic work can be stressful. Successful poets spend many hours each day writing.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • The majority of poets are freelancers and work from contract to contract. Others may work for advertising agencies, magazines, newspapers, literary journals, greeting card companies, religious organizations, social agencies, publishing firms and other related establishments. Poets often publish and market their work themselves, or submit their work to publishers.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement opportunities for poets are limited and based on the amount of work and effort one is willing to personally put in. However, a poet working consistently for one publication house may eventually get pre-signed contracts to write poetry or anthologies. Also, poets can become novelists, journalists, editors and publishers. Many poets teach English, poetry or creative writing at the secondary or postsecondary level, especially as a form of supplementing their income. Some poets may become literary, book and poetry critics for newspapers and magazines.

  Educational Paths  
There is no required educational path for becoming a poet. Nevertheless, many poets have university degrees in English, creative writing or journalism. Talent and ability, as demonstrated by a portfolio of work or a manuscript, are important publishing criterion.

Since a postsecondary education does not ensure success as a poet, experience is the best teacher in this field. University or college training can be useful in developing research skills, organizational skills and professional contacts. Poets can also attend writing conferences and workshops or take creative writing correspondence courses. Again, the best training a poet can gain is by writing and writing as much as they can, including school poetry assignments. Find websites that publish poetry for free and volunteer for school literary journals. Also, keeping a journal and constantly jotting down thoughts and ideas will help aspiring poets develop their own voice, characters and ideas.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Full Sail University - Online
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Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University was among the first colleges or universities to teach on military bases and has been educating servicemen and women since 1973.
Programs Offered:
  • MA: Creative Writing - Non-Fiction
  • MA: Creative Writing - Poetry
  • MA: Creative Writing - Fiction

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