How to write a poem in four(ish) easy steps

1. First, forget that you want to write a poem. Because maybe you don’t.
But you’ve got a blank page or too-bright screen in front of you,
aching for you to put something on it.

1b. Just set down some words, gently, as if you’re placing a delicate
china cup onto its equally fragile saucer. Let them come through
your fingers, any words you like the sound of. Maybe chimney. Or plucky.
Or plucky chimney. They don’t have to logically go together. Let yourself
smile at their willingness to show up for you.

2. Add more words. Arrange them in short lines if that looks good to you,
little stairsteps marching down the page. Try not to think too hard about them,
these raindrops of syllables trickling through you, these sturdy words:
Mediterranean. Catalpa.

2b. Or maybe your lines stretch across the page like the long arm of a wave
coming in parallel to the shore. Watch it arrive, melt into foam.
Call it a prose poem, if you want.

3. You may think, This is a poem? It’s a poem if you call it a poem.
Doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks so. Or praises it in any way.
It’s your poem, dammit.

3b. Keep going till the poem wants to end. How do you know
it’s the beginning of the end? Put an ear to the words; listen closely
as if trying to determine if someone is still breathing. Listen to the words
inhaling and exhaling, living on the page, stairsteps leading to some
final thought, becoming something that didn’t exist before you started.

4. Resist the tendency to dismiss what has appeared from who knows where
with (look at that!) a bit of fairy dust sprinkled on top. Honestly, it’s magic;
no one understands how this happens. Admire what has tumbled down those
stairs and landed.

4b. There. You poemed just now. That is no small thing, my friend.
You poemed.

Photo / Jan Haag

About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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4 Responses to How to write a poem in four(ish) easy steps

  1. Holly Rice says:

    Delightfully inviting
    Thank you Jan

  2. Gloria Beverage says:

    Thanks, teach!

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