Over the years, in the many classrooms and workshops where I have taught poetry, I have often heard would-be poets complain they simply can’t think of the line or wrap their heads around an idea. I told them, and I tell you, don’t worry about the poem, the idea, the line, simply start with a word. Many of my most intensely felt poems began with a single word.
The word can come to you out of the ethers or, you can browse through a dictionary or thesaurus, choosing a word that teases and tempts you to explore it. The word can be one you know or one that is new to you. Let that word lead you into the next word, until there is a line of poetry and then, another, until the poem completes itself – with your help, of course.
Desire takes us to the need
within we begin to feel
a kind of restless longing
we feel weak and yet
feel strong desire whispers
taunting us with promises and in
that final moment
screams desire wakes us
into dreams… – SAK (rights reserved)
I find that, often, the word knows where it wants to go and leads me through the whole process of writing the poem. If I get stuck, I go back to the word and just write whatever the word prompts me to. And after the poem begins to take form, my practice is to go back over the lines and see how I can strengthen them or improve them so that they stay faithful to the word I’ve chosen. (See edits in parentheses.)
Dark and dreary
makes me weary
makes me teary
weighs me down (REMOVE)
colors the world brown
rises inside me wordless (change “rises” to “presses” – REMOVE “wordless”)
like a weight of stones (change “a” TO “the”)
bringing me down…
It helps when writing the poem, to use poetic devices such as: alliteration, rhyme, hyperbole, metaphor, and simile, etc. – this helps you find other words that will become part of the poem itself. Don’t worry if you keep changing the words and the order in which they appear, because that’s what poetry is – a process, a journey that begins with a single word.
If this lesson inspires a poem, I would be delighted to see it. Please send it, via the Chat Room, at www.poetladykatz.com
Write on… Susan