To celebrate National Poetry Month, we asked a few poet-moms about their craft, their process and their ideas for making poetry a little more accessible to us all. Each Tuesday in April we pose a question to the poets and share each of their responses, followed by a poetry-related writing prompt.
Do you have any writing habits or rituals that have helped sustain you over the course of your writing career?
Samantha Reynolds: I write a poem every single day because it keeps my creativity muscle limber. Plus, I don’t sweat over every poem needing to be profound or perfect because there is always tomorrow to redeem myself.
Julie Brooks Barbour: When my daughter was an infant and my husband in graduate school, I worked full-time and had little time to write, so I started writing every day during my lunch break. I’d eat quickly then head over to the art library on campus to write for 50 minutes straight. This helped train me to write when I have time, since, as a mother, I’ve found it difficult to write at a set time each day. Now I’m able to steal moments like that when I find them, since my daughter is still young and I’m still very busy!
Lyla Willingham Lindquist: I pay attention, wherever I am, noticing details, making unusual connections between unrelated objects or persons or events, then writing them down. Most of the time, I have a worn black notebook in my back pocket that is shaped to my backside. If I forget it, there’s always my phone in the other pocket that takes pretty good notes. And I read. I don’t think one can let words out for any length of time without putting somebody else’s back in.
For Your Journal: Play With Poetry Prompt
As writers and moms (and more), we’re used to being pulled in several directions at once. We strive for structure, routine, organization and the ever-elusive balance. What if we were better able to see the everyday-ness of our lives as part of our writing practice? What if the only difference between “routine” and “ritual” is the level of attention and intention we bring to it?
Choose a routine, day-to-day activity from your life as a parent — getting kids ready in the morning, school drop-off or pick-up, middle-of-the-night feedings, homework, naptime, bath time, bedtime – and write a short poem that takes the reader inside that routine/ritual. Focus on the aspects of those interactions that are unique to you and capture your relationship with your child/children. Don’t worry about the form your poem takes. It might just be a list of words or a few disconnected sentences. The goal is to simply capture the essence of the experience.
About the Poets:
In 2011, Samantha Reynolds pledged to write one poem a day to try to “be present” and not miss the fleeting first year of her son’s life. Now she wouldn’t know how to stop even if she wanted to. Her popular poetry blog, bentlily.com was featured in ‘O’ Magazine and has sparked a movement of people around the world to slow down and savor their lives. When not racking up reams of poetry, she runs Echo Memoirs, a publishing company specializing in personal memoirs and company histories. She lives with her husband and son in Vancouver, BC.
Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of a chapbook, Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, Kestrel, UCity Review, diode, Prime Number Magazine, and on Verse Daily. She teaches at Lake Superior State University where she is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing. She can be found online at juliebrooksbarbour.weebly.com.
Lyla Willingham Lindquist is a claims adjuster, helping people and insurance companies make sense of loss. She works out of her home in the rural Midwest most days, and other days, out of yours. When she’s not crunching numbers or scaling small buildings, you can find her on the sofa with a gentle cup of tea. She’s an editor at Tweetspeak Poetry and also writes occasionally at LylaWillinghamLindquist.com.