Aspirations to Write Poetry? Here’s a Few Pointers

How does one approach the potentially daunting task of writing a poem? Where does the inspiration come from? Well, poetry is more about seeing than it is about ‘creating’

First and foremost, read poetry, good poetry and bad poetry (so you know the difference) — and read it properly. This means reading slowly, visualising, going over the poem, and really trying to understand: most people do not read books properly, not to mention poetry.

Second, stop. Learn to slow down, to listen, to observe, to just pay attention to seemingly trivial things. This will be hard at first, because your mind will rebel, and because you are hungry, and bored, and uncomfortable, and so on; but it is a skill, and skills are so because they can be developed. Go on regular slow walks around nature (preferably after reading a few good poems); pay very close attention in conversations; learn to meditate—turn these into habits, and you increase your chances of finding inspiration.

Third, just start writing. You will cringe at some of your creations: good! it means you have taste. Your mind will rebel and wander: learn to know when this is a clever right turn on the part of your mind (and therefore, a distraction), and when it is a necessary release or moment of imagination (and therefore, part of the creative process). All the reasons for not writing—all the excuses to ever leave the lips of a human being (dog ate the pen, Trump is pissing you off, stress, you had a bad day, you feel ill, the mac battery is dead, you’re feeling uninspired, there is a hurricane outside, you have no time, poetry is hard, life is hard, there is no point — whatever excuse you wish)—are still excuses that make not writing okay. Starting the sentence is the hardest thing — but it is the only way, is it not?

Also, on writing, expect it to be painful. This pain, if you instead embrace it, befriend it, ‘lean in’ to it, harness it, is fuel. Like all the neuroses, if you can learn to control them, to understand them, to express them, then you have power; it is not coincidence the some of the great writers of the past, the true greats, were a tad bonkers. Embrace pain and magic happens.

The upshot: read poetry, stop, and start developing your own voice on the page.

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