Shelley Widhalm

Going Poetic: National Poetry Month

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

The idea of writing a poem a day is a bit daunting.

First, where does the inspiration come from, especially if you write poems as they come, even when the writing space is awkward on napkins or receipt tape? Do you have to try poetry exercises to get the spark started? Or do you just sit down and write whatever spills out?

Second, where do you find those special sparkly moments to condense into a few magical words if you’ve got work, chores and life? Or do those things feed into experience that in turn gives you ideas, thoughts and emotions to smooth like peanut butter into cadence and meter?

It’s National Poetry Month, when poetry is celebrated and poets undertake the challenge to write a poem a day during the month of April.

To write poetry, I listen to music or observe something around me, such as the way a budding tree (I can’t identify the type outside the coffee shop window) zigzags its branches across the street, a skeletal umbrella against the fading blue night.

When I’m listening to music, I filter out some of the words for a starting point, or I match the rhythm of what I hear into the feel of language as I write. The words rumble through my chest, causing my heart to speed up as if I were running, when all I’m doing is chasing beautiful language.

Sometimes what I write is nonsense, though I try to find a line or an idea to play with later.

I don’t pick a form to follow, unless I’m writing from an exercise or trying out the directions for writing sonnets, haikus and sestinas and the like. I might write in blank verse, a type of unrhymed poetry written in regular meter, which is the stress on syllables. Or I might write in free verse that does not contain a consistent meter pattern or rhyme.

These various forms I will try during my poem-a-day challenge, as if sorting through a pile of clothes in the dressing room.

As I do this, I will take five to 15 minutes from my busy, pushy life to notice what I haven’t before, searching out inspiration, hope and poetry love.

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