POETRY IS AGELESS
There is no age before which you must begin. Poetry is ageless, timeless, and open to all.
Langston Hughes published his first major work at age 19, Emily Bronte at 29, Virginia Woolf at 33, Maya Angelou at 41, and Emily Dickinson was first published after her death.
Peggy Freydberg celebrated her 90th birthday before she picked up her pen, and when she did, she wrote of what she knew.
I know that I could no more cease
To want to make my bed each morning,
And fold the covers back at night,
Than I could cease
To want to put one foot before the other.
(From Chorus of Cells)
We write most authentically when we write about what we’ve experienced, what we’ve lived, what we’ve seen, when “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen…” John 3:11.
WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
Tom Schulman, scriptwriter for Dead Poet’s Society, wrote, “Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat, or a flower, or rain.”
These are the thin places – those moments when the veil thins and eternity bleeds through, and often they are mysteriously tucked into the unassuming, unexpected, and ordinary moments of our days.
For this month’s poetry prompt, we invite you to choose something small, unimposing, or routine to write about. Things like:
- A simple response
- A routine task (ie: brushing your teeth, making you bed, feeding the dog, pouring a cup of coffee, ordering a medication refill)
- An ordinary object (ie: a paperclip, sock, toothpick, cotton ball, pencil, wedding ring, strand of hair)
- A moment (ie: the time it takes to boil water, pour a bowl of cereal, seal an envelope, or tie a shoe)
- A superficial word (ie: the, in, out, a, of, can)
- A small weight (ie: a feather, pull tab, lady bug, tissue, tear drop)
- An ordinary kindness (ie: saying please or thank you, holding the door, holding an elevator, being on time, smiling at someone)
- A small victory (ie: getting out of bed, rising from a chair, eating breakfast, walking the dog, walking 10 steps)
- A faint sound (ie: footsteps on carpeting, an exhale, turning a page, the breeze through the trees)
- A small difference (ie: 1 cent, 1 second, 1 heartbeat, 1 inch)
Consider leaving your reader with a question like Frances H. Kakugawa did in her poem, Drought.
I have become that soil
That slips through the fingers
Of the farmer,
Sucked dry of life.
Will the rains never come?
Consider writing the entire poem as a series of questions as I did in my poem, Chronic.
Can you name the dark? Can you speak
the steam rising from your cup? Can you voice
the box clogging your throat? Can you gather the beat
of the dripping loss as He plaits the days you cannot see,
into warp and weave of a soul set free?
Consider turning the ordinary on its head like Leona J. Atkinson in her poem, Surprises.
Daily plan upset
God’s ways are not our ways
Things can change quickly
In just the blink of an eye
With just the ring of a phone
Consider writing just five lines as Franz Wright did in his poem II.
The long silences need to be loved, perhaps
more than the words
to describe them
James K. A. Smith wrote, “…poetry invites us to the edge: to that risky precipice where words succeed in their failure; to that frightening fulcrum where the world teeters, back and forth, between abyss and icon; and to the dark corners of a broken-hearted world where there are holes cut out for the grace to get in.”
Consider writing about the spiritual significance God has woven into creation as Christopher Yokel did in Awake O Sleeper.
The corpses of trees are
wrapped in fog’s death shroud,
but I hear the sound of the
robin, singing the first
note of resurrection.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
As you observe the tick of the clock, the curve of an eyelash, the cool of a granite countertop, be aware what you see and hear, how you feel, what you taste and smell, how these connect with the moments you’ve lived. Then pick up your pen and begin.
Share your poem in the comments, tag Chronic Joy on social media, or link to us from your blog. We’d love to read what you write!
More Poetry Prompts
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A More Perfect Color of the Sky Three years ago, we went to New York City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. A Look at the Museum’s Memorial Hall One of the striking displays is a giant wall with 2,983 watercolor squares in different shades of blue. Each square...
Books to Inspire
An anthology of most of the poetry of Amy Carmichael – 565 poems gathered from her published books. The untitled poems were given titles and all were arranged by the editors under seven major headings: Worship, Petition, Surrender, Ministry, Wartime, Encouragement and Youthful Thoughts.
Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as “far and away, this country’s best selling poet” by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years.
Part memoir, part humorous and poignant defense of poetry, this is a book that shows you what it is to live a life with poems at your side (and maybe in your Topo Chico®).
Megan Willome’s story is one you won’t want to put down; meanwhile, her uncanny ability to reveal the why’s and how’s of poetry keeps calling—to even the biggest poetry doubter. If you already enjoy poetry, her story and her wisdom and her ways will invite you to go deeper, with novel ideas on how to engage with poems.
With the imagery of a poet and the reflection of a philosopher, David Whyte turns his attention to 52 ordinary words, each its own particular doorway into the underlying currents of human life.