How A Poem Comes to Life

Anybody Can Write a Poem

The trick is coming up with a good poem that will dive into your reader’s heart, or cause your reader to stop and think, or become mesmerized by the picture you created in their heads.

It’s not easy, and it’s not rocket science either.

Owls

Owls in Love

I write poetry that is either in free-verse or rhyming. I prefer free-verse poems because of its loose construction. No rhyming lines needed. However nearly every grade school student in the USA is introduced to poetry through the simple Japanese form of Haiku. The simplest style being three lines with 5-7-5 syllable count in each line. (There are many other formats than that.)

If I ask you now

Will my heart dance on air

Or die a long death

I just created this. I thought about a universal theme of love and of fear. Will he ask her to marry him or face the rejection and the consequences that follow. Writing poetry can be very freeing if you don’t worry so much about the structure or even word counts.

Remember a trail

Your Mountain Climb

Think of an idea that swirls around in your head. Like when you stand at a prominent point at the end of the trail. A mountain has drawn you up to its peak. Now you are there. How do you feel? What do you see? Do you see something other than what you expected? Was it worth it? Do you want to stay or leave immediately? What made you climb the trail in the first place?

Now You Create a Poem

Now take those thoughts and write them down. Put them in chronological order or mix them with the level of emotion you felt. Find some strong emotional words with good visual meaning. Try to use the natural senses as motivation to help others understand how you feel: see, smell, touch, taste, hear. Use them all if you can. Make it a free-verse. Have fun with it.

So I thought about my first time I climbed to the cliff top trail of Bright Angel in Grand Canyon. I struggled with the idea of even going. You’ll see how I tried to talk myself out of it. I made plenty of excuses in my head. Everyone has a photo of that point. Millions have been there. Why bother? For me, the weather was growing stormy. I really should have gone back to the car but my sister and I were on the last days of vacation. We just had to go see — take a chance — it might be worth it.

I struggled to get here.

The parking lot was full.

I heaved thin air, lungs, ached.

I should never have come.

Then I forgot my camera.

Those batteries are so expensive.

 

My last step was magic.

No one will believe I came here.

Clouds billowed like sails below me.

How will I prove it?

Red cliffs rose like layered-cake bluffs.

I can even taste the fresh air.

I cried like an eagle then soared.

I’ll remember. It’s carved in stone.

I just created this poem (really) and it was a wonderful jump back to 1976. What I didn’t say was the lightning that struck across the point while my sister was holding me steady against the wind so I could get a photo with her camera. I captured the lightning in my photo! We were giddy, hoping the shot would actually show the lightning! We had to wait until the film was processed to find out how awesome it was! I caught it; I have proof!

Here’s a rhymed poem that doesn’t fit the typical pattern, but I have grounded it with the heavier words like sound and ground, birds and world, and place and face. The other rhymed words that you hear are not as strong or easily matched, but it does give the reader the sense of a rhythm because of the meter of the lines — the flow of the words working together to create the feelings and a complete idea.

FOR ELDORA

I find it difficult to speak …

but if the feelings in my heart

could somehow utter sound,

the words would tumble out

and scatter on the ground.

 

Then gently I would gather them …

protect them from the day,

like confused and wounded birds

find a special hide-away —

a shelter from the world.

 

Not hidden in a quiet cove …

Not a leafy place above.

My words have found a place,

in knowing they’ll be loved,

in the smile upon your face.

 

~~ B.A. Rusty LaGrange

~~  Rusty