People who long to write sometimes stop themselves with a self-critical editor who says, “You’re not a writer.”
A writer is someone who writes. So if you want to write a poem, write one.
Write every day. Even if you find your writing tedious or boring or uninspired, by writing every day, you will become a writer. It’s that simple.
Where can you find inspiration? So many sources! I first kept a dream journal in college when a friend in a creative writing class told me that the inspiration for her poetry came from her dreams.
Keep a journal by your bed and tell yourself before sleep, “I want to remember my dreams.” Then be faithful, upon awakening write down the impressions in your mind. It may be an entire dream, a feeling, a fleeting image, some words. It doesn’t matter. Don’t judge it, just record it. Even if you don’t remember a thing, you can write what you think or how you feel upon awakening.
From your dreams, circle the nouns and the verbs and put them together into sentences. Or take each line that you’ve written, preface it with the words, “In my dream,” and string them together. You have a poem!
Another way to compose poetry is to ask friends to give you words. Seven to nine words seems to be a good number, maybe up to ten. Or you can look around the room or listen for the first words that pop into your mind. Use some form of those seven to ten words to make a poem.
Play with words. Play with the sound, the rhythm, the images they evoke. Poetry, unlike prose, does not have to be made of full sentences. Experiment with the images.
Don’t be concerned about meaning. Think of a poem like music or abstract painting and let the sounds or images carry you into a new realm.
Here are some poems I made from the random word exercise:
Beckon, forthright, cultivate, ginger, fresh, sallow, wonder, bleak, harvest, genuine
The bleak landscape beckons me
Quietly, gingerly, I step out
Wondering what fresh places to cultivate
Is there something genuine
Beneath that sallow earth
That a forthright laborer
fathom, silk, peace, love, white, gentle, far, touch, blessed, trust
How gentle your loving touch
Deeper by far than the ocean
How can I fathom the blessed peace you bring me?
I trust this unfolding,
The white silk veil falls away
All I want is peace
Peace, love, green, flower, sanctuary, black, comb, fashion, trial
All I want is peace.
In the deep longing for love
something green reaches for light
What is this flowering?
Where is the quiet sanctuary
in which all is known?
Does it exist?
Black has its purpose.
Still, waiting, resonant
with the soul fashioning
its next movement.
Some trials are worth continuing.
If I comb through the past
will it reveal the source of this unknowing?
Another way to write a poem is to pick particular qualities or states of being that resonate with you and turn them into people. An excellent book for stimulating your imagination this way is The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler. I highly recommend it.
The following poem, “Solitude,” came to me in feeling images as I pondered solitude and its seeming opposite, intimacy. As I focused on my own experience of aloneness, I felt within me the similarity of solitude and intimacy. It came forth in this way:
I have grown used to Solitude
She befriended me when I needed her.
A constant companion
She is comfortable and familiar
and even peaceful.
A little while ago
I told her we needed to change
our live-in arrangement.
She can visit
but it is time for us to take a break
There is space now
for her sister Intimacy to move in.
Few people realize
how closely related they are …
The touch the same places.
The difference is who they allow
to share them
Writing poetry can be a way to free the creative mind to express. Allow yourself to play with words. You can choose a particular form like haiku or limericks or classic sonnets, or write in free verse. Think of words as the raw materials you use to create, just as a sculptor would use clay or a painter acrylic or oil paint. A chef uses food and spices and a musician creates with sound. When you approach writing as play, you’ll find joy in the process.
Sometimes that seems more valuable than the finished product.
Please share your poems in the comments below along with the process you used to create them!