by Diana Raab, PhD
Poetry is the voice of the soul and is often considered a free-flowing form of expression. Poets help us see a slice of the world in a way in which we might not have observed it before. They highlight details to cast a light on a feeling, an image, or an event. Poetry also helps offer insight into both the human psyche and human behavior, and it is a place where the imagination can roam free.
Letting go and writing poetry is about just allowing life and experiences to unfold as they are meant to unfold. When writing poetry, try to release or let go of your rational mind and let your sensations and emotions take over. Letting go is also about slowing down and pausing while being mindful of what is stirring inside you.
For some people, beginning a poem is the most difficult, but with practice it will become easier. When writing a poem, think of it in fragments. Each line is a fragment. Put the line breaks as a natural pause to your thoughts. Keep the focus of each line to one single image. For me, beginning a poem is the easiest part, because I fill my journal pages with first lines and then take it from there.
As you string words together, feel the poem erupt from deep inside you. Begin by writing about something about which you feel strongly. Writing in this way will help reveal you to yourself. It will transform you and direct you down a path of bliss. Over time, you will learn what inspires you to write poetry. Everyone is different.
Life provides all of us much material to write about. In addition to our memories, reflections and fantasies mentioned earlier, this wealth of material can also include the books or articles you read and the movies you’ve watched. Poet Robert Frost deftly says, “A poem begins with a lump in the throat: a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression: an effort to find fulfillment.
Poems come to me when I least expect it, but most often when I am in the midst of doing something else. Sometimes an image or a title drifts into my mind, and that’s where I begin.
To become a good poet, it is important that you read a lot of poetry for inspiration and ideas about form. You can also listen to CD’s of poetry being read aloud. After you finish your poem, it is always a good idea to read it aloud. This is a good way to edit what you’ve written, because poetry was meant to be a spoken form.
Reading the works of other poets is also a wonderful way to invite in the muse because it fills you with random thoughts and invites rhythm into your own poetry. It might also inspire you to go to poetry readings or to listen to poems being read audibly. My book, Lust, for example, is read by actress Kate Udall, and she does a terrific job of bringing the poems alive.
Here are some good prompts to get you started writing poetry:
- Title your poem “I remember.” Recall an event in your life and share all the details of it in your poem. The reader should feel as if they are remembering alongside you.
- Write an ode to someone you love. Provide details about why you love them.
- In poetic form, write a letter of apology to someone you disappointed or you think you disappointed.
- Write a poem about your first boyfriend/girlfriend and what you remember about them and your relationship.
- Write a poem about someone who has passed away and frame it in a present day event that triggers your memory of them.
- Write a poem about a secret you never told anyone.
- Describe your day in a snapshot
- Write a poem about all the things you love.
Guest post contributed by Diana Raab, PhD. Diana is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, and speaker who advocates the healing and transformative powers of writing. She’s the author of nine books and her essays and poetry have been widely published. She’s a regular blogger for Psychology Today, PsychAlive, Boomer Cafe, and Elephant Journal. Her book, Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life is due to be published in September 2017.