How to Start Writing Poems
January 1, 1970“DO THE POEM.”
Let’s talk about how to begin the writing of poems:
Getting started writing the poem as you feel it can be the hardest thing of all. But some plain and simple methods have helped many writers, including myself, to find the poetry within. Whether you use a computer page, or a traditional sheet of white bond, blue lined paper, or the blank backsides of junk mail pages (as I have done now and then), makes not a bit of difference. With each “page” you still will have the task of having a face-off with the blank page, while you consider filling it up with something that is basically non-existent to others in all the world until you have etched it onto the medium of the electronic or traditional page.
Then, this is the poem you, and you alone will create. Only your senses will make the words the right words as you the writer decides what is right and what is wrong. This particular writer’s buck stops with us.
Much has been said about going to “inspirational places,” or exotic locales where one will be inspired to write poetry. But some very fine poems have been written in ordinary, if not downright humble places in various poet’s homes, office cubicles, or even prisons. So, best find a corner nook in the home, apartment, or cyber café table off in the back, where you can be pretty sure that you will not be disturbed for a while at least. Turn off the cell phones, email, and whistling teapots! While there may be a very few exceptions, writing is basically a solitary job by its nature, for most of us writers and poets.
So that, finally, away from the burden of distraction when you look within, beginning to see and feel a bit of the elusive imagery that will become your poem, you may feel a sense of newness that will be unlike anything before. You will then quite naturally want to pursue this new image and sensation as it will often keep tantalizingly out of your mental reach for a little while. Nothing should disturb this pursuit of the fleeting poetic consciousness. I call it the do the poem thought, feeling, or moment, as this seemed right at the time.
If everything goes right, then this subtle little hint of something other than the unholy rhythm of the day to day grind and daily ordinariness will really surface, perhaps briefly (perhaps too briefly at first), and it is your absolute duty as a writer to capture like it is an elusive, very rare fish hiding in the depth of your mind. With practice it is very possible that this do the poem thought will not be a rare thing for you anymore, but someplace you can learn to visit more often as you learn to put thoughts to paper or screen. This idea¾finding your inner place where your poems come from¾is especially relevant for the beginning poet, or for that matter, even for the experienced poet who is beginning a new poem.
Years ago, I had learned to flycast some, making me spend arduous, but thrilling moments at the edge of a dawn splashed lake casting the delicate fly rod out over the softly slapping water in the expectation that one of the dark, undulating shadows beneath the silky surface of the lake was really¾this time really¾a frying pan sized lake bass. Most of the time it was not.
From those early memories of standing alone on the bank of a huge lake, while hopefully arcing the tiny feathered fly far into the mist, came a small poem that I wrote several years ago about this do the poem moment. Eventually it occurred to me that the metaphor of using the complex art of flycasting seemed to describe my own feeling of searching some mysterious mental depth over and over for the most fitting phrase or sense of being to write a certain line.
(This poem is dedicated to my brother-in-law, Stanley who was a keen fisherman and also had a special talent for art. It is in my book, "Eight Frames Eight."
To place this comma ","
two wary words
requires an agile hand
with the pen
casting the inkline
until it stops
just here ","
and fools you
is well-schooled words
lurking in a cool place
to where the monster
swims in his Loch
so you and I
can net him
both of us know
that catching poems
is questions "?"
NOTE: As a help in getting us started in the direction of the true inner poem each day, I have made a photo desktop to motivate you and me every time we start our computers. Just right click on the photo of the Motivation Desktop # 1, click “download as background” to view it as your desktop. If you don’t use the computer to write, then print it as a photo to pin over your writing place. The photo background is on my website on the Newsletter page.
© 2007 by Judith Cody, all rights reserved. Permission to use or copy in all forms must be in writing and obtained from the author.