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.
Has poetry always been your main writing genre? How did you get started?
Samantha Reynolds: I’ve written in many genres, including film, memoir and micro-fiction. But since January 2011, poetry has been my main genre as a result of my New Year’s resolution that I would write a poem every day to force myself to be more present, to savor my days, to try to see the world through the eyes of a poet. I quickly became addicted and I’m now in my third year of a daily poem practice.
Julie Brooks Barbour: Poetry has always been my main writing genre. When I was a child, I made up songs with verses, choruses, and bridges, forms that imitated the songs I listened to. I loved music even though I couldn’t play an instrument. My little songs rhymed which is probably how I became interested in poetry, but I didn’t start reading in the genre until I was a teenager. At age 16, I was introduced to American poetry through Longfellow, Emerson, and Whitman in an English class. I discovered that words could create music beyond rhyme and began trying this out for myself. The summer after my junior year of high school, I attended the Young Writer’s Workshop at the University of Virginia, which helped me focus and hone my work, and encouraged my passion for poetry.
Lyla Willingham Lindquist: Truth? I’ve been writing poetry for just a little over a year. Until then, I was a blogger on faith, life and work, with a reputation for calling poetry “cryptic nonsense.” I got started quite by accident when a friend–the managing editor of Tweetspeak Poetry–invited me to play with poetry on Facebook. It became a habit, and before long I was writing poems as a way to process and bear witness to the personal losses I encounter in my work as a claims adjuster.
For Your Journal: Play With Poetry Prompt
One of my favorite ways to play with poetry is to use a few lines from a poem by someone else as a writing prompt. There’s magic at the intersection of poetry and real life, and when a line of poetry resonates in such a way that it evokes an emotional response in me, I know there’s something there for me to explore.
Using one of the excerpts below (or a line from any other poem you like), free-write for ten minutes about what the words stir up in you, how they reflect your experience, give you a new perspective or challenge you in some way. You may even be inspired to memorize the line(s) or the entire poem to see what unfolds for you as you allow the words to sink in more and more.
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth…
(Rainer Maria Rilke, “The Unspeaking Center”)
* * * * * * * * * *
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy was not meant to be a crumb. (Mary Oliver, “Don’t Hesitate”)
* * * * * * * * * *
To be human
is to become visible
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
(David Whyte, “What to Remember When Waking”)
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.