I wrapped up my last semester at W&L with, among other classes, a poetry workshop.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes, let me be the first to say I've never been much of a poetry guy. I don't claim any significant technical knowledge of the art. It's still foreign to me, and I'm often confused by poems. Since I merely have to keep a pulse these next five weeks to officially get my diploma, I suppose I can make some educated guesses about why that is.
First, poetry never really comes up in day-to-day life the way art does. My friends don't get lines of poetry stuck in their heads, or wait in line for poetry slams. Poetry doesn't show up in our newspapers like photography or even prose. It's not in our TV, our movies, our advertisements. It's not at the forefront of political opinion, celebrities don't endorse it, there aren't stadiums for it. It rarely gets framed in museums, and people aren't getting killed over it (as far as I know). Poetry is undercover and out of sight.
Second, I think (I wildly generalize) that a lot of people feel the way about poetry that they do about Telemundo. Sure it is probably entertaining if you know the language, but that's a lot of effort to put in if you don't. You encounter poetry and Telemundo about the same - usually on accident - and you might be pleasantly surprised when you do, but only if it's Napoleon Dynamite with Spanish dubs. In the same way, you might like a poem if you can sort of understand it, and it's funny.
Finally, there is a problem of over-complication here. Because the people who write poetry are often viewed as very intense, very other, it doesn't strike most people as something they can do. But poetry is a form of writing, of organizing thoughts, which everyone has to do. Most of writing poetry is observing. We used Wendy Bishop's excellent book Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem for our reading and writing exercises. The biggest help for me was seeing the work of many poets and identifying with styles that were similar to my way of thinking and writing. Knowing how a poem should look and sound is helpful for writing your own.
I found that writing simply and telling a narrative were often the most effective ways to get ideas across. Best of all, the class forced me to write frequently. Like most people, I'm more committed to the idea of a journal than the actual daily practice, so writing on a schedule kept the ideas flowing.
I've posted a few of my poems on the page "Poetry." They all follow specific prompts from the Thirteen Ways book.
You can see them in blog form right here. The titles are: