For National Poetry Month, I thought I’d share some thoughts on my most favorite and least favorite parts of writing a new poem:
My favorite part of writing a new poem:
- The idea that invades my mind like twining ivy and won’t let go until the entire poem has been put to paper
- Making messy lines and blot outs and squiggles with my colored pen on paper as I play with ideas and words
- Typing all that mess into a fresh, new document on my computer—that feeling of chaos becoming somehow ordered
- Rereading the poem, feeling both its wholeness and its incompleteness in my mind and body
- Editing the poem, fussing with words and line breaks, challenging myself to see what can be more specific or fresher
- Reading the poem for my writing critique group to see my creation through new eyes, discovering where the poem can be improved
My least favorite part of writing a new poem? Read more
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. Read more
“….Everybody, even people who don’t read poems, have poetry in their heads…,” says poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Filmed as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, the 4-minute video below features poets Enzensberger and Tracy K. Smith, who discuss the nature of poetry and their process of working together.
Enzensberger says we find poetry in nursery rhymes and prayer and other everyday occurrences. Poetry is part of the fabric of our lives. Poetry can be a way in to other writing formats.
Watch the video below and then check out my earlier post, “Using poetry to enrich your prose” to see more ways that poetry can inform our lives and our writing.
Do you ever struggle to figure out what a poem means or how to approach writing one?
I’ve always loved poetry so when I studied for my MFA, I attended every poetry workshop that I could, even though it wasn’t my focus in the program.
One of my favorite classes was a master class by poet and teacher Matthew Shenoda.
One of Shenoda’s tips was to read poetry conceptually. He suggested we ask ourselves these questions: