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Poem making: five ideas for mixing the mystical and the conscious

This past weekend, a friend and I shared poems we’d written to see what we could learn from each other’s work. Reading our poems and talking about the subtext of them made me think about how writing poetry — from idea to finished poem — is about the magic of the subconscious melding with conscious craft decisions. But then I’m beginning to realize that all writing is ultimately that way.

Poems come to me in many forms, including: A purposeful exploration about a subject or person, a chance encounter that hits me in the chest, or an observation of two people interacting. Sometimes it can be hard to explain how one moment elicits a response or a “knowing” that I must record it in a poem.

If you’re looking for poetic inspiration, try these writing ideas:

1. Find a new format. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.

2. Set limits. Constraints often fuel creativity. Think of an idea for a poem and then limit yourself to a set number of words to express it.

3. Create contrast. Write a poem juxtaposing your greatest sorrow with your greatest joy.

4. Explore the idea of “home.” You could write about the feeling of home, a specific house or town you lived in, or a specific room in a home. Maybe you recall the turquoise kitchen of your childhood and something that happened or a feeling about that room.

5. Mine the abstract. Pick an abstract feeling, such as desire, happiness, or sorrow, and without naming the feeling, write a poem about it using specific images and sensory details.

For more poetry writing ideas, check out these posts:

The yoga of poetry

Master class tips for reading and writing poetry, part I

Master class tips for reading and writing poetry, part II

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