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.
How can someone who’s maybe never written a poem begin to cultivate a relationship with their inner poet?
Samantha Reynolds: Be willing to see what’s in front of you with new eyes.
Julie Brooks Barbour: Begin by paying close attention to the world. There’s an exercise that I use from the poet Linda Gregg’s essay “The Art of Finding.” At the end of every day, for a period of a week or two, I describe six things I’ve seen that day, anything I’ve seen. After just a few days of the exercise, I notice the world around me in more detail. It helps me pay attention to small, subtle things, which brings me joy, which I believe is the heart of poetry.
Lyla Willingham Lindquist: First, read poetry. Then, read poetry. After you’ve read a little more poetry, start to play. Write sentences with concrete images and break them into lines, or give yourself a pool of words from a page in a book or another poem. Don’t put pressure on yourself to master anything, just play with the words. Find a community to play with and explore the craft. I read (at least) a poem a day as a way to expose myself to a rich variety of poets and poetic forms.
For Your Journal: Play With Poetry Prompt
To go along with her answer to today’s question, Samantha Reynolds shares with us one of her favorite writing prompts:
Put a fruit or vegetable in front of you. Stare at it intently, not looking away, for five minutes. Keep asking yourself: “What am I really seeing? What does it really remind me of?” Resist seeing it the way you have heard it described before. Bore deeper into it until your own version of the object begins to take shape. When the five minutes are up, write three sentences about the object. Don’t rush the writing part; pick words that meticulously reflect what you see. Trust that you have an original take on something as common as a carrot stick. You will be amazed what your mind has in store for you.
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.