LIKE VIEWING A LIVE POEM, UNFOLDING IN SEASON-TIME
Each morning I open the blinds covering all my windows. The light looks in and I look out.
Whichever window I happen to be nearest shows an ever-changing view of various trees.
Watching them is like viewing a live poem, unfolding in season-time.
Out one window I watch my burr oak and cedar elm kelly up. Out another is the mountain laurel which last year sheltered two broods of baby cardinals, and last week I saw a mama cardinal return to the nest. Out the north window I am keeping an eye on my redbud, which still has not bloomed. But out the south window my dad’s redbud has. It’s barely purple.
My mom believed the Lord sent her redbud trees as a confirmation of His goodness. So when the house next door came available two years ago and its redbud was in bloom, I knew it was a sign that my dad should move. It was his first move in forty-seven years.
I check on his redbud every day, both in person and through the window. I write poems about it, about the nest hidden in its branches, even though I’ve never seen a bird emerge from it. I write about my redbud too, which last year got fat green leaves but no pink blossoms, as promised.
Look out a window. Write what you see. Write what you don’t see but know is true. Arrange your words into a poem.
When your poem feels complete, consider submitting it to us for publication. Send poem, headshot, brief biography, and links to your social media and website (if applicable) to: email@example.com.
Each month, we’ll publish a poem from our community on both Chronic Joy’s website and in our monthly Oasis of Hope.
A POEM TO GET YOU STARTED
Most poems I write are inspired by other poems. A word or a phrase or an image makes me think of something I wish to write about. When the words won’t come, I often imitate a poem like this one.
THE PURPLE PEACH TREE
Su Tung P’o (772-846)
translated by Kenneth Rexroth
Timidly, still half asleep, it has blossomed.
Afraid of the teeth of the frost, it was late this year.
Now its crimson mixes with the
Brilliance of the cherries and apricots.
Unique, it is more beautiful than snow and hoar frost.
Under the cold, its heart awoke to the Spring season.
Full of wine, sprawling on the alabaster table,
I dream of the ancient poet who could not distinguish
The peach, the cherry and the apricot, except by their
Green leaves and dark branches.
Even when you don’t feel like writing a poem, you can always journal about one. All you need is a pencil and paper (or a computer, if you prefer to be able to read your own writing).
- Read the poem.
- Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
- Read the poem again, aloud (if you didn’t the first time).
- Is anything bubbling up? Do you feel a poem stirring? If so, write it. If not, congratulate yourself anyway because you wrote today by journaling.
Here’s an example I did for “The Purple Peach Tree,” which I discovered in an anthology called Poems About Trees from the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series, edited by Harry Thomas. Best airport bookstore purchase ever!
- I’ve never heard of this tree, but it sounds similar to Texas’ flowering spring trees. On Ash Wednesday I saw a redbud in full purple buds beside several other still-leafless trees. Was it “half asleep”?
- When trees are late to bloom people are often sick of winter. But the poet reminds us of the beauty of “snow and hoar frost.” Just not as beautiful as this tree.
- Is the tree “Full of wine, sprawling on the alabaster table” or is the poet? If the tree, then maybe there is still a bit of alabaster snow. If the poet, then maybe the table has a white cloth. Who knows.
- The fact that the “ancient poet” distinguished trees not by their flowers or fruit but by their leaves shows careful observation.
- I want to write more tree poems, all as grounded in detail as this one.
- You can blossom even if you are afraid.
More Poetry Prompts
Is there a basket big enough to hold all of ourselves? Wins, losses, employment, recreation, love, sorrow and joy, wellness and sickness? A God-created space that He fully inhabits? A basket for our life. Whole, complete. Integration instead of compartmentalization.
What would you say, in a poem, to a friend facing a serious diagnosis? How might your experience provide wisdom? Is there a poem that ... you could share?
Books to Inspire
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. Megan'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.
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.
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.
Marilyn Chandler Mcentyre
Readers are invited to consider what caregivers and medical professionals may learn from poetry by patients. It offers reflections on poetry as a particularly apt vehicle for articulating the often isolating experiences of pain, fatigue, changed life rhythms, altered self-understanding, embarrassment, resistance, and acceptance.
Chronic Joy® Poetry Coordinator
Megan is a contributing writer for Wacoan magazine in Waco, Texas, the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, and Magnolia Journal. She is also an editor at T.S. Poetry Press and the author of The Joy of Poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes and edits from home. Links to her work can be found at her website, meganwillome.com and Twitter. Megan's day is incomplete without poetry and tea.