Whenever I’ve asked my students to write a poem, I invariably hear the question, “Where do I start?” My immediate reaction is consternation, plus a certain level of frustration (in case you don’t know, writing teachers can be an exasperated bunch). Poetry is all about your surroundings, right? So, formulating a topic should be as easy as attending school, going to work, or otherwise carrying out your daily routine. Why, oh student writer, are you overthinking this task? It’s supposed to be fun!
Story Embers Poetry Writer
Dwelling deep in the forests of New England, Graham spends most of his time reading, taking walks with his dog, and learning new and interesting things (and reveling in cooler, more temperate climates). Born and raised in the Boston area, Graham was homeschooled from an early age. After high school, he proceeded to get a bachelor’s in Literature from Patrick Henry College in Northern Virginia. He currently resides in the Boston area while pursuing a master’s in Education at Gordon College, steeping in the rich history of his home turf and a continued exploration of literature from across the world. He says you should read Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country and Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, because they are incredible novels. Also, read Robert Frost.
Found: a poem, down a dusty old path that leaves have scraped with many final breaths. When asked why it lingered so, it laughed and held onto my arm, and hopped with wreaths of dry, pressed daisies (all the color drained) upon its golden head.
If you’ve ever toured an art museum, you can’t walk far without confronting the power of images. The paintings tell stories of animals, families, wars, and kings, each holding a special significance for onlookers.
Mountains are where I’ll lay my head, and in the ocean’s trench I’ll rest my feet till the stars above show me the path I’ve led.
Poems come in all shapes and sizes. Some are short like blips on a radar screen, provoking a burst of thought in the reader (haiku, for example). Others are long, sweeping songs full of passion, emotion, suffering, and death (Homer’s epics). And many in between tell stories of people, objects, and animals (from Tennyson to e. e. cummings). But few types of poetry leave you as simultaneously stuck and fascinated as the villanelle.
A glance at the pages of history reveals that poetry is not a young art. Poets from the Greek and Roman epochs were often renowned rhetoricians—their speeches captured the minds, imaginations, and sensibilities of the people in that era. Thus, poetry and rhetoric (the art of persuasion) are not far removed from one another.
My rushing sigh flows in and out like the ocean surf that writes in the dark on reams of slimy kelp with the ancient ink of primeval octopi.
Two broken youths in the wild wood watch the dying daylight fade among the ancient ferns.
When you take the leap and attempt writing poetry, you’ll find a multitude of tools at your disposal. Some are self-explanatory, some are surprising, and some are downright strange. All you need is practice. You can arrange rhyme, metaphor, and simile in a variety of combinations to wreak havoc with language.
I have a couple confessions to make. First, I am biased toward poetry, not because I believe it is inherently better than other art forms (like novel writing), but because poetry is largely misunderstood. People interrogate poetry to gauge its worth, asking questions such as, what is the point, why are we reading this, and why do people even write this?