Friday, February 22, 2008


When I came home last night, I found a little red leather book with gold embossing on my kitchen counter. Feelings I had associated with it years ago hit me before I could remember what it contained. It was one of my childhood favorites - “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. My mom had sent it home with my daughter, who is studying poetry in school now.

My daughter was struggling with her poetry homework the other night. She had a serious case of writer’s block. It’s tough to pull out words and string them together in meaningful patterns on demand. After her initial brainstorming, she was stuck. I told her to go do something else and it would eventually come to her (hopefully before the project was due). And sure enough it did — beautifully. The look of amazement on her face as inspiration struck was priceless. It’s a magical feeling of connection.

I haven’t written much poetry since high school and I won’t torture anyone with samples of my teen angst now. Back then, I said they were song lyrics. I had to maintain my cool girl rep. But that’s when I first felt the power of communicating through writing. I had written a very personal poem that I was sure no one else could understand. A classmate read it over my shoulder. She started to cry and asked if she could have a copy. It touched her on some level and I was honored.

Of course that poem was horrible and we were moody, overly emotional things. But when other classmates began asking to read my stuff, I was not only flattered but a writer was born. I also learned something valuable. One should write for themselves and about their own truths. We are all connected on some universal plain and others will relate to the honesty. If you try to write what you think others want to read, it will likely fall flat.

So smash your soul out on a page and wait for divine inspiration. Something incredible can take shape. If that’s not in your bag of tricks, then try to read other’s poetry or even the lyrics to your favorite song. I keep a journal by my bed that is filled with my favorites. When I’m feeling isolated or lost, I turn a few pages and quickly find that someone else had the same questions, if not the answers.

My favorites now are Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Dream Within Dream” and anything by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Emily Dickinson. Yep, a dark romantic.

“There is a pain - so utter - it swallows substance up then covers the abyss with trance - So memory can step around - across - upon it - as one within a swoon - goes safely - where an open eye - would drop Him Bone by Bone.” - Emily Dickinson

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