Writing Good Poetry: Tips for Success and Using True Voice | Author Interview with Meghan Malachi

Meghan Malachi expresses the power of writing poetry that's true to you, shares tips for success, talks accessibility, and inspires you to start writing!

Follow the interview to learn the importance of "highlight[ing] the subtle beauty and intricacies of even the most mundane moments" in your own work.

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Let's Meet Our Author!

Meghan B. Malachi is a consulting analyst and poet from the Bronx, NY. Her work is published or forthcoming in Milly Magazine, NECTAR Poetry, Pages Penned in Pandemic, giallo lit, and Writers With Attitude. Her first chapbook, The Autodidact, was published by Ethel Zine & Micro Press. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Author Interview Questions

1. What do you think makes a poet successful?

I think success is personal, especially when it comes to writing.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a writer is that it’s okay to make art that isn’t for everyone. It’s okay to have a target audience and to stick with it—or to change that audience at different stages of your career.

Being able to write for different groups of people while staying true to your unique, poetic voice is something I definitely aspire to. So for me, being successful means being able to write poetry that feels true to me—especially when I’m writing for diverse audiences—and eventually teaching others how to write poetry that feels true to them.

2. What are your thoughts on a poem's accessibility to meaning? Do you like your poetry to be easily decipherable or something for readers to solve/interpret?

I find myself somewhere in the middle—I feel that thematically, my poetry is usually accessible, but the language and structures I use to convey those themes might take some time to fully understand. I’m not very interested in making poetry that is intentionally undecipherable, but I do like to experiment with metaphor and voice in ways that may require a second or third read to truly understand.

I definitely enjoy challenging my readers—not to frustrate or alienate them but with the hopes of eventually making them laugh or sigh or helping them learn something new about themselves.

3. Can you share your poetry with us?

The Autodidact:


I tend to the itch on my scalp,

and a beach of dandruff and gel residue spills out, a consequence our mothers deem unfixable. Still, I grab the rat-tail comb and part my hair in two, ready to line the white arc with Jamaican black castor oil. Its labored musk and dense drip remind me of the cabin in Pennsylvania. The Poconos. Which only exists when the air is unbearable and the terrain is quilted in white.

Every winter we returned to that temporary home—a weeklong and chartered bite of ownership. When we arrived, the adults dropped their bags and roamed the familiar rooms, besotted by the spotless wood, the absence of memory. When night sauntered in, dappled with punctures leading to nowhere, the children gathered in silence —to capture hints of life before us. And each time we reigned victorious: a missing game piece, an unmatched Barbie shoe, drops of oil atop the doll’s head, full of odor and unabsorbed.

4. What do you think most poorly-written poems have in common?

When I’m editing my own poems and I feel like they are poorly-written, it’s usually because I’m either including too many words/details or my tone is inconsistent.

While I’ve written several multi-page poems, I find that I’m always looking for ways to be concise. This is definitely something I’ve picked up from the many writing workshops I’ve participated in! I’m constantly asking myself:

Have I already expressed this sentiment?

Will the poem collapse if I remove this word? This line?

If I can’t justify including something—even if it’s an entire stanza—I remove it. When I feel that a poem is oscillating between two tones (unintentionally), I’ll challenge myself to break it into two or more poems. This has honestly helped me so much, especially with longer poems. I frequently find that tonal inconsistencies arise when I’m trying to fit too much into one piece.

This is when I ask myself:

What do I want to say?

Is it one thing? Two?

Will the world end if this one poem turned into two?

5. Can you explain your process for creating your poetry?

This is very difficult for me because my process is chaotic! Sometimes I sit down and decide I’m going to write a poem about plantains, and sometimes I am inspired by a conversation between two strangers on the train or by one of my grandmother’s childhood stories.

My chapbook is a good mix of poems written with intention and poems written spontaneously! When those unexpected bouts of inspiration come about, I usually grab a piece of paper or open my Notes app and write as much as I can before the inspiration dissipates. In either case, I usually wait a few days after writing the poem’s first draft before I begin the editing process.

I think it’s really important to leave the poem alone for a while—sometimes a poem seems finished as soon as I’ve put down the pen, but I might come back to it a day or two later and find that it reads differently or that it doesn’t quite achieve what I thought it had.

6. What inspired you to write your latest book, The Autodidact?

I honestly didn’t expect to write a book so early in my career.

The first poem I ever published came out only a little over a year ago. I spent this past year creating a lot of poetry, reading a lot of poetry, and experimenting with different writing forms; I've been a writer my whole life, but this year I really honed my craft and decided to be brave enough to put my poetry out into the world.

Earlier this year I started seeing a lot of chapbook and micro-chapbook competitions/submissions on the internet, and I started to wonder what a chapbook by me might look like.

I ultimately decided I wanted to put together a collection of poems about growing up and how so many of the lessons we believe we teach ourselves were actually taught to us by others—our parents, our dearest friends, complete strangers. I also wanted my collection to highlight the subtle beauty and intricacies of even the most mundane moments—running out of dish soap, eating continental breakfast, typing a question into a search engine and watching the search bar complete your sentence.

7. Do you have any advice for writers who are struggling to take the first step?

Don’t let criticism hold you back, especially criticism that is clear, thoughtful, and given with the intention of helping you grow as a writer.

I find that the fear of criticism often stems from our unwillingness to revise something we feel is complete or something we feel is too personal to be critiqued.

You will certainly have to decide which critiques are worth considering, but never close yourself off completely when it comes to suggestions. You’ll eventually learn the difference between unhelpful or shallow criticism and criticism that is constructive and given with care--take advantage of the latter!

I also urge new writers to connect with other writers and to build community with them. Go to virtual workshops, free writing classes, book clubs, etc. It’s crucial to surround yourself with people who understand the challenges of being an artist and who will celebrate your successes and motivate you during setbacks--it's equally as important to provide this support for other writers as well! Being part of a writing community also lightens the experience of receiving criticism—if you share your work with people you know will be honest yet compassionate with your work, you may actually enjoy receiving their critiques and suggestions!


Discover The Autodidact

Poems are easier.

—Overheard During a Discussion on Fiction and Poetry (a snippet)

I think of my cosmic brother, of the cut between my two dearest fingers. An incendiary smile on its face of skin. I think of astral abandon and the thawing of time. The death carnival, caterwauls of the crowd. I think of opacity as milk, of sleeves on leather jackets that look like the creases on my palms, all the books I pretended to read because I knew I’d find no mirrors there...

Finish the poem and read more from Meghan Malachi here

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Social Media: @meghbert


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