How to Write a Poem


I’ve been thinking and working on blogging, the techy geeky stuff, which interests me to a point, but finally the headache begins. And the over saturation. Then I move back to what I really love which is creativity. Blogging and the techno stuff is just the new medium, the new publishing as it were, and with all its advantages, one wonders why it can be so difficult at times. Why can’t one say, I want to put this here, and that there, and have this line up over here on one’s web site without this insane lingo known as programming? It’s the revenge of the nerds on us all. No, actually, it’s a bit of the pleasure of finding things out. It does feel good when you finally figure it out. You feel a little self important. Maybe that’s what its about, feeling important. At any rate Squarespace seems to be advertising what someone like me is wanting. So maybe I’ll move in that direction. It’s just that still, all the squarespace sites I’ve see, seem to look the same. Oh well, who knows. As Loren Feldman says, “It doesn’t madda.

”Wait, wasn’t this about how to write a poem? Oh yes, a poem. I get on and off streaks of writing poems like I do getting into tech, but you can guess which is more fun and more gratifying. Hands down a poem, or anything creative.

A poem is not something you sit down and intend to write. It’s an adventure. A line pops up out of no where, when your totally doing something else, or not doing anything at all, and what it does is not describe how you feel, because like Paddy McAloon wrote, “Words are trains for moving past what really has no name,” but rather the sounds of the words, the arrangement, how they’re put together, their “music” as it were, express how you feel at that particular moment in a way that is transcendent of that moment. It’s an expression of eternity in the field of time. Blake said, “Eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

The soul is like energy. It’s eternal and of the moment at the same time, but you can’t see it or feel it or touch it. “Oh,” you say, “but I’ve been shocked before!” Yes, but that shock wasn’t energy hurting you. It was the atoms energy was moving that hurt you. Energy has never been seen, heard, felt, touched,  or tasted. It’s like the invisible man who can only be sensed by throwing a blanket over him. Energy is to an ocean wave as the soul is to art. Art is the expression, the outline in matter, of that which felt outwardly, only inwardly.

Dance is a metaphor for effortless movement. Singing is a metaphor for the exuberance of being. Painting is a metaphor for the picture of the soul and for capturing in time, that which is timeless. Music is a metaphor for adventure as represented by the melody, and the magical helpers who appear from no where as represented by the harmony. Sculpting is a metaphor for finding the secret treasure that’s inside by working with the “hands” those magical coming from no where helpers again. Fiction is a metaphor for existing simultaneously in two worlds and “dancing” and “singing” between them. Drama is a metaphor for knowing, not that everything is connected, but that everything is the same thing when outside, “bigger” forces, pull the hero or heroine out of there everyday existence, and also a metaphor for the Self behind the self, both participating and observing, there and not there at the same time. Poetry is a metaphor for spontaneity and quantum leaps, where something is nothing and nothing is something. “For poems say nothing,” said Auden. But that nothing is precisely the treasure chest buried in your own back yard, which again is a metaphor for the dark parts of the psyche, that we ignore, disregard, or tell to sit down and shut up if they make too big of a rouse. Anger comes from attachment, taking sides with a system over a soul.

Art is a metaphor, not for “living” as we so often hear spoken, but for the knowingness that eternity is right here right now, that this IS it, that you ARE it, right here right now, and that no only does magic exist but that it is the only thing that exists.

So, here’s how you write a poem:

  1. You must have something to write on every second of every day for the rest of your life, which is forever. The thing about the adventure is that it never ends.
  2. A small pocket notebook will work just fine, but I’ve found the iPhone very useful because if you are at a social gathering and a poem seizes you, you look weird writing in a notebook. They don’t notice you typing in your iPhone. They think you’re emailing or texting. So it makes you look cool too.
  3. Write down every line that comes to you that sounds good, that feels good, that feels like its spontaneous, coming from some other place than your mind, that you’re not writing it, but its writing you.
  4. If you’re lucky these lines will come most often just one at a time and not interfere with your life, and then when you’ve got enough of them, you can gather them together into one poem.
  5. If three different lines come to you on three different days, don’t worry about whether they “match” or sound right together, you can put them together in the same poem or not. “It doesn’t madda.” Look at it this way. either your three lines into a poem, or you got three different poems going on. Either way you win. But in all seriousness, you can decide later and I mean much later on things like this. There will be drafts and more drafts before the editorial process comes in. So you can save those kinds of decisions for the editorial process.
  6. On a really bad night, the lines won’t quit coming and you have to leave the bar or party early. You have to chase down every spontaneous line like a fly ball. If they keep coming you keep running, no matter WHERE it leads you.
  7. And that’s a KEY point: You cannot editorialize or make judgement on ANY spontaneous line that comes to you out of the blue. No matter what it is you write it down. You are not a writer. You are a secretary. And if the lines keep coming, you keep following them, like a doe that catches your eye in a forest that you follow without thinking about if you’re going to make it back.
  8. You’ll know when the rough draft of a poem is complete when a really beautiful, perfect ending comes walking in, like the girl of your dreams sitting down next to you, when you thought the night was over.
  9. If you write that draft into a any kind of word document to save on your hard drive, you’ll never see the poem again, or think of it again, and your subconscious mind will get angry, go away, and you’ll probably never write poems again, which is too bad, because they are lovely entertainment, but at least you’ll have a life again.
  10. Publish the finished first draft on your blog. You’ll be so embarrassed that you’ll work on drafts all night and day, until it at least doesn’t embarrass you anymore. Then you’ll forget her for a while, but you’ll meet up again someday in Casablanca, and she’ll never stop loving you.
  11. 5 years later when you do meet up either she’ll be married with children which won’t be bad, because in some ways those children will have been influenced by you, or you’ll fall in love again, and this time you’ll take the ball all the way to the hole or end zone
  12. The whole thing will be just perfect for a while, and then you’ll find yourself back in the Kingstown bar again. But that’s okay, because that’s where it all began. And it gets more beautiful with every draft.
  13. Oh, I should have put this first. My writing juices get flowing when I read. Get one of the volumes of The Best American Poetry Series and start there. Just read it for enjoyment without intending to write a poem. When I read those volumes, or poems out of the journals like the Paris Review, I find myself almost jumping to the computer to write. It’s almost an unstoppable force. I WANT TO. It’s FUN.
  14. Don’t read or write poems for meaning. Read and write them for fun. Don’t worry whether you understand them (whether yours or others’) Art that you can understand isn’t art. Worry about whether your having fun doing it. If you don’t, find out what you have fun doing. Follow that. It’ll lead you to the same dance. “Many roads, one destination.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *