Day 208: How to Write a Poem
“I want to say without hesitation that the purpose of our life is happiness.”
I me mine
when all we have to is just
want to, or wish to, or hope to
Today’s creative endeavor, is really an answer to a question.
A lot to times when people find out that I write poetry, they always ask me how. They ask me how does it come to me, and how do I know what to say. This is especially so b ecause I do not write poetry that rhymes. But I’m going to give you the secret to writing poetry.
The truth is, everyone is a poet. Everyone has the fabric of what poetry is. I won’t tell you what poetry is, but I will tell you what it is to me. I often descirbe my poetry as “random ramblings from my brain”. Really for me, poetry is a celebration of everything that makes us human, of everything that makes life what it is.
First of all, if you want to sit down and write poetry, you must understand that it’s not going to just going to happen, all planned out. Poetry is the very fiber of who you are. You can’t really plan it out. Get yourself a cool journal that you really want to write in. And a good pen or pencil. My friend Alicia is all about having good pens when she writes. I would at least, like to be able to find one that works.
Think about yourself. start describing yourself. Picture your innermost self, and describe it. Don’t over think it. Just write it down. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just go with it. Just do it. Feel it, go thru it.
Now, at least you’ve started writing. Good. Now, I want you to picture how you are feeling right now. Or picture a situation you’ve gone thru that was full of emotions, good or bad. Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re not going to use long sentences. You’re going to pretend you’re speaking with a russian person (that is, provided you don’t speak it. Just pretend you’re talking to someone that doesn’t understand you’re language very well).
Whenever I talk to my chinese neighbor Lily, Ialways use short sentences, like “nice day, outside” and “baby is sleepy”. THAT’s what you’re going to do. Describe this intense situation you went through in short small sentences.
Here’s an example. I’ve taken the death of my brother, as an example (he died when I was 16).
came home from church
so now my
heart is in disaray, it is
want your spirit to stay with me
and I want you to
go where the angels dream…
Okay, so you see? Short sentences.
Another thing to do, is get a rhythm going. You don’t have to rhyme of course, my poems NEVER rhyme. Just get a good rhythm going, a sort of tone for the poem. Think about when Maya Angelou reads her poems. They have a sort of timing to it. Again, don’t complicate things too much. Try listening to music, that’s what helped me when I was younger (I’ve been writing poetry since I was a little girl).
Click here to See a Video of Maya Angelou, reading
When you read the above poem, you see a few things:
1-I never puncuate, unless illustrating a point
2-my sentences are not all “proper”. Sometimes they are long, and run on, like Allen Ginsberg’s, or then sometimes short, like in the Psalms.
The way I form my sentences is part of the rhythm I have in my poem. It comes naturally, so don’t force it. Again, try listening to music. Listen to rock and roll such as Bob Dylan, Nirvana or Pearl Jam. First, listen to the music. Then, read the lyrics. Read them aloud. This will give you an idea of how timing and rhythm works in poetry.
When you feel you have nothing to write about, go out of yourself. Go out into the world. Or at least, go on the train, or the beach or something. Watch people. Write about what you see. Don’t just look at people. Really observe. Observe what is going on. Write about it. Go to a museum, and write poems about the artwork on the walls. Go to a park and write a poem about the random couple arguing over where to have their honeymoon.
Keep your journal with you always. And always keep a pen or pencil with you. Nothing worst that having the inspiration, and writing utensil.
Another thing is you must read. Read. Growing up, what influenced my writing was the psalms. I grew up quite fervently pentecostal, so that is the backbone influence of my poetry. My other influences are Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. I highly recommend reading any of the aforementioned writers, since to me, that’s what poetry is about. They very nicely capture life in such a cool way, I wish I could write the things that Sylvia Plath did, the way that she did.
Now, the final thing is to start saying that you do write poetry. You ARE a writer. You do write. Just don’t doubt yourself, because poetry is the worst medium for which to doubt yourself, because all of it comes from you. So if you doubt yourself, of course, nothing will come out.
And listen to your muse. Listen to the words. Keep writing and soon you will feel the words coming to you, and you’ll find yourself pulling your car over to write a poem, or whipping your journal out in the train or bus. Listen to yourself, and the poetry will come.
Here’s a favorite poem of mine, by Allen Ginsberg. Click here. The laughing is distracting, but try to think beyond what he’s actually saying, and what is trying to say.
Here’s my favorite poem by Sylvia Plath. Click here.