Unless you’re a poet laureate of some kind, you’ll probably not get an assignment to write a poem anytime soon. Writing poetry is very much a self-initiated activity and easy to postpone till later. Even after you’ve taken a summer break and are fresh again, unless writing poetry is the main type of writing you do, it’s easy to let that saddle gather dust.
1. Review the reasons why I write poetry in the first place.
One of the reasons I write poetry is to cause me to pay attention. I found that thought expressed brilliantly by Wallace Stevens and Barbara Crooker in the foreword to Crooker’s volume Selected Poems:
“Wallace Stevens said, ‘One of the functions of poetry is that it gives you a keener sense of being alive,’ and that’s one of the things I’m after, being more connected, being more alive in the one life, the one we’re sleepwalking through.” – Barbara Crooker, Selected Poems, p. 9 (Kindle edition)
Your reason might be different. Whatever it is, revisit it. If it’s still true, you’ll have your first nudge to get back at it.
2. Read poems.
There’s probably nothing that inspires me more than seeing how other poets have done it—used metaphor and symbol, chosen the perfect word, employed rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and all the other musical and syntactic tools that language possesses— to make a point, to make me laugh, cry or shake my fist, and help me see and appreciate things in a new way.
3. Go for a walk.
When I’m mentally and inspirationally constipated, a walk is often just the thing to get my creativity moving again. On that walk I tune into my senses. In the notebook I carry, I jot down lists of what I see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and touch. Of course I also write down the lines and phrases that pop into my head.
4. Set a writing goal.
I try for one new poem a week. That’s not too hard. I reassure myself that the first draft of a poem doesn’t have to be good—just written.
5. From the beginning of the week I’m alert for a poem idea.
I call this giving my brain an assignment. Inevitably an idea surfaces. It might come from my Bible study and prayer time, a walk, people-watching session, memory, photograph, piece of art, a poetry prompt, or . . .
6. Show up to write it.
I have to, at some time during that week, sit down at my desk and actually work on the poem I want to write. I tell myself, “You work on this for 30 minutes and you can go.” I use a timer. On almost every occasion I get lost in the fun of it. I end up spending way longer than 30 minutes and usually have a finished poem to show for the time spent.
So this week, grab that dusty poetry-writing saddle and using the ideas above, climb back into its familiar and beautiful curves.
Violet Nesdoly is a freelance writer and poet who lives near Vancouver, B.C. Her poems have been published by Utmost Christian Writers, Time of Singing, Your Daily Poem, Prairie Messenger, and others. Three of her poems are included in the newly released Inscribe anthology, Seven Essential Habits for Christian Writers (http://amzn.to/1OwcrLb), and two are included in the soon-to-be-released anthology Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon.