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Of Cardinal Rules for Young Poets

Written by: Ngoc Nguyen
Beyond the basic, traditional rules of poetry such as measure, metre, rhyme, imagery, metaphor, mood, tone, form, reading lots of poems, writing often (when inspired, and not), and so forth; the premier cardinal rule for young poets to bear foremost in mind as writers is—in the immortal words of William Shakespeare—“to thine own self be true.” In other words, as poet be true to one's self as both writer and literary artist. By doing so, young poets still learning and mastering the craft of poetry will of necessity be true to their own God (or god, rather) and to the world which is their audience. Young poets true to themselves accomplish this dictum by simply writing what they know best and by writing first and foremost for themselves. As “disciples” and devotees of this most simple rule of thumb, young poets are assured of several blesséd promises as versifiers and as “makers” of lines, so to speak.
 
Firstly, they will ensure their self-fulfillment and therefore happiness and contentment as young  poets. This is plain to the human understanding, and, therefore, to the common sense of all. For none can admit to God in heaven above or to man on earth below that they are fulfilled or happiest when they engage in falsehood, dissimulation, or even deception (as one in constant pursuit of art—and perfection—as a way of life or calling). This is a self-evident axiom, for the life-long and laborious composing of poems and lines requires truth and realness of integrity as well as high fidelity to one's self, God, and audience. And when writers such as poets know that they are truthful and upright before themselves, God, and their audience; then they are at peace within themselves knowing that they are in harmony (with others) as living testaments of their age and time. Also, their conscience as human beings and artists are clear whenever they are inspired by divine afflatus (or “breath”) to write their verses. For young poets, this is a “beatitude,” a most blissful condition to be and live in as writers and as artists as well as human beings in good standing with respect to their own integrity and rectitude as modern-day bearers and documenters of poetic truth.
 
Secondly, when their audience know that they are authentic in the writing and composing of their lines and verses they are more apt to cleave unto them and their works of poetry as loyal readers and aficionados of the poetic arts. This is easy to see, for in life it is human nature to gravitate and be drawn to things which are sincere and true, and therefore real (to them). As it is in love, money, religion, government, or politics, so it is in art also. Especially the poetic arts. For what man, woman, or child desires to read lines or verses that amount to rubbish—or even dung? None. Simply because it would be a waste of precious time (in this life, on this earth) when one can instead be spending their priceless moments reading material such as the beautiful literature of the Holy Scriptures; the timeless plays and sonnets of Shakespeare; or the monumental epics of Homer, Virgil, and Milton; as well as the masterful works of other great poets throughout Western and World history. All readers who value their time should desire to profit most from it by consuming literature in general—and poetry in particular—that have the greatest likelihood of ennobling and uplifting their minds. Such candidates not only pay back in dividends in personal enlightenment and exaltation (of the mind); but also redeem the time spent in reading them for pleasure, study, or for personal enrichment. This characteristic is a hallmark and attribute of all great poetry and literature. So, therefore, to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, young poets should strive to achieve verity in the content of their poetry in order to effect high levels of veracity toward truth and/or elements of verisimilitude, i.e., the appearance of truth, for the express purposes of achieving a standard of quality that all or most literate individuals will recognize as the unmistakable sign of literary and poetic quality. By doing so, young poets increase the numbers of their loyal readers and followers—and not only for the here and now, but also into posterity long after they have passed away from natural death.
 
Thirdly, by being writers and especially poets of irreproachable authenticity and genuineness  seeking to uplift and morally and spiritually benefit their fellow man and woman as well as themselves, they shall become scribes of truth and wisdom before God (or their god, rather) and shall stand approved and be adjudged as good and worthy before His sight as testaments of His divine will and eternal plan. Such poets and writers of lines and verses of meaning and truth to humanity—by allowing themselves to be so commissioned by God (or a Supreme Being) for this noble calling and purpose—only store up everlasting blessing and treasure for themselves on that day of eternity. But let there be no doubt in the mind of anyone that these souls will be blessed all the days of their lives even while they live on this earth as recorders and oracles of the realities of existence and the facts of the human condition, even as mankind advances ever onward throughout time to that culmination for which it was created by its divine Author. What is more, no God worth worshiping honors a liar, whether speaker, writer, or a poet of lies, falsehoods, and untruths. Nor does such a worthy God bless or raise up such purveyors of deception and destruction through these self-same mendacity and prevarication. On the contrary, a worthy, good God cuts down and removes such workers of dissimulation by blotting out and dis-establishing them from the books of life and recognition. So that their blessing and names  are expunged forever and their memory is eternally forgotten (if they write lines or verses of untruth and deceit). It is good, therefore, for young poets to write and compose as they would speak or conduct themselves in life: for whatever they put to scroll or paper will be a written record either for or against them for all of time.
 
Finally—and on a more encouraging note—as with individuals, young poets who possess personal integrity and probity of character as writers and artists can never be harshly judged or defamed by the world (for very long—if ever at all, that is), for if writing and composing truth in their lines and verses as metaphorical human “mirrors” (that faithfully reflect people; life—and death; Nature; God; and knowledge, secular and divine) ever causes any one of them to be reviled, then let it be known as a caveat to all that that individual is protected by the Creator, Who will lift and raise him (or her) up above his revilers, slanderers, and defamers in the end. Such is His Law, and the Law of the Universe. And as for God Himself, the Creator never rebukes a speaker, writer, or poet of truth, but—as with Wisdom—He makes His abode and dwelling place with  him and lives in his presence; and goes wheresoever he goes, and tarries wheresoever he tarries. In addition, young and experienced poets of truth and authenticity alike are blessed by God insomuch that their lines and verses are all but promised establishment and a foundation in posterity and in the halls of poesy. Their poetry, as well as their memory, will live on after them, that is to say, posthumously. They and what they have written won't be forgotten, for the truths that they will have written and composed of as poets will be fixed in the hearts and minds of the generations after them: for all truths are God's truths, and all who testify of the truth(s) as writers and poets will be remembered for everlasting. This, to say the least, is in a nutshell and essence the promise of poetic (and literary) immortality by the Logos (or God) to all writers and poets who tirelessly do not stray or deviate from timeless truths while pursuing poesy at Parnassus (in earnest as a life-long calling).