How to Write a Poem
The other day a good blogging friend told me he wants to write a poem, but he's afraid. As far as I know, he's never tried writing a poem before.
I understand his fear. Sometimes I cannot approach the empty page because I'm all tied up in knots with the thought of failure. What if my poem ends up being really terrible? Where do I start? What should I write about? It's like I'm writing a poem for the very first time again, and I stall.
In a way, I cannot explain how to write a poem. I told my friend, "Just write a sentence with a picture in it. Maybe use a memory or look at something that's near you. Break it into lines."
Would that be a poem?
My daughter asked me at the table yesterday, "What makes a poem a poem? Why isn't a book a poem? Or a movie a poem?"
We talked about the relative brevity of poems, but she interjected, "What about Beowulf?!" Okay, epic poems aren't short. But then she said, "Maybe Beowulf is a poem because it has 'form'." I liked that. Yes.
But we have to begin somewhere. Nobody wakes up and becomes Keats or Yeats, or the bard of Beowulf, in a day. Begin with a single sentence, or a phrase. Use a memory or something you see. Maybe pick up a few cool words from someone else's poems and play with them like a kid with a mudpie. Don't worry about what you're going to end up with.
Okay, I'm going to try it now. Just to see if it works. Of course I feel nervous doing this right here in front of you. But I want you to see that even poets feel afraid.
Here are my borrowed words, from the Yeats poem "The Wild Swans at Coole": scatter, wheeling, sore, passion.
Bananas soft curve
on counter, deep yellow
turning brown, sore with
wish to hang erect again,
green with passion
on the tree, scatter
sun to wheeling
sun to wheeling
Fun. I had no intentions of writing a poem about bananas. Or wishes. Try it out, and if you do, drop your poem here in the comment box. I'd love to see what you found on your counter, your desk, or even in the bathroom. :)
Ribbon Plant photo, by L.L. Barkat.