How to Write a Poem



How to Write a Poem

Only a fool waits for a poem to come to him.
You have to call for it like a proper blind date,
knocking on its door
and seeing beauty in whatever opens it.

Take it dancing.
Twirl it around the floor,
letting words fly off in all directions.

Leave what flutters off alone.
Someone else will pick it up
and dance with it.
No word is a wallflower,
although some are chosen more frequently to dance.
Those are the words to avoid.
Do not always choose the prettiest words.
In the dance of the poem,
the ugliest of words acquire a charm.

Do not insist that you yourself lead.
Let the poem, instead, draw you
off the dance floor,
out the door
and down the path
to deep woods
where all the wild words live.

Gather them in bouquets
or weave them into chains
to crown your head––
that head of the poet
who follows where the poems go
and collects them by armfuls to share with the world.


The NaPoWriMo prompt today is to write a poem about how to do something. Three of the other four prompts I follow had the word “fool” as the prompt. No surprise. The fourth had the prompt “down.” Here are the links:

31 thoughts on “How to Write a Poem

    1. Marion Couvillion

      Just happened on this and really enjoyed it, I thought I might learn something, and I did, but it was more good thoughts on what you did than making me better at mine~!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. katshamash

    What a delightful extended metaphor! I love the lines,
    “Let the poem, instead, draw you
    off the dance floor,
    out the door
    and down the path
    to deep woods
    where all the wild words live…”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Goodnough

    PI enjoyed your poem very much. However, it did set my mind to whirling, especially the part about ugly words having a charm of their own. So here are a few…er…unique words. And since it’s April, they’re green. I challenge you to whip up a poem with three of them. 😉
    poison ivy


  3. Manja Mexi Movie

    When I set to write my post today, first I had this same title down. 🙂 Then I realised that I preferred to write the other thing I do and know nothing about, photography. Now I’m so glad that I didn’t stick to my original plan, because you say it better than I ever could. This is exactly how you do it: you let words lead. Seeing the beauty in whatever opens the door is a great simile (or similar).

    If you wish, we can do like light year and I can leave you my link every day under your post. (Oh, and your photo doesn’t show. It says only OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.)

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Martha Kennedy

    Good advice for all writing “Do not insist that you yourself lead.
    Let the poem, instead, draw you”

    I used to tell my students to write a poem, right there, in class. I gave them the first line. It always turned out well and they had fun. The line was, “Open the door.” It’s a good line by itself but it seems to have had the power to open the doors in their minds. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Lens-Artists PC & Day Two: Hello April fools – Manja Mexi Moving

  7. Mickey Basden

    Me, Poet Pretender

    In the blog “How to Write a Poem” I read:

    Only a fool waits for a poem to come to him.
    You have to call for it like a proper blind date,
    knocking on its door
    and seeing beauty in whatever opens it.

    Well, opinions are like elbows — ‘most ever’body’s got a couple.
    I write when the muse inspires me. I have yet to decide “I’m gonna write a poem — “ and then set about to write.
    I respond to an unbidden urge to express a novel thought.
    I write the words that flow… only when I need a specific word to form a rhyme in the context of a particular concept, or a synonym to contain the thought in the construct of the evolving meter — only then do I search for words …
    My product is never the revelation of an unknown, or explanation of a mystery — it is ever a trip through aspects of my own existence.
    So it has been also in my excursions into the arena of fiction — I transcribe the thoughts that are supplied to me … by what, or whom? I have pondered, and cannot say. Some say that
    “automatic writing or psychography is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to
    produce written words without consciously writing.
    The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.”

    That’s an interesting analysis — and I have no comment.
    But to me it becomes no less than anathema to be challenged to write a poem based on a particular word.
    I respect those who can pull this off — and I enjoy reading their poems, My comments are only a description of my personal predilections, not a criticism of others — most of them certainly more capable, and gifted with talent I will never have.

    Liked by 1 person


      Well said, putting it into a different media, you do not take a walk along a mountain stream saying to yourself, “I am going to take a picture of the most beautiful red flower I see”. Rather you enjoy the scenery, with a camera over your shoulder and when the right view inspires you, you photograph it. You may end up with a few no keepers, but you will also get some remarkable photos and I can guarantee that you will have a more relaxed, memorial, pleasant walk, even if you do not see a red flower.



    Hummmmm So you may call me a fool in waiting, but I guess this could often be too cut and dried. However I do not sit down and say, I am going to write a poem, and here is what I am going to write about~! I may extemporaneously see something that inspires me, a flower, a person, a word, a view, a beautiful day, or even a book. I am not looking for it as much as it may be looking for me. This inspiration motivates me to want to describe that observation in prose, and the words just start to flow so easily, it sometime is frightening.

    Just as when you see, meet, or know a beautiful person, then, if the dance floor is dull, or if it turns out that you were just overly inspired by it, it just flubs. I have many poems that just did not work out, but then later I am re-inspired by the same object but a different approach. I may go for long times with no inspiration at all, but I am not ogling the wall flower line to see if someone missed something that I might “dance” with.

    Not putting your great words down, but rather just saying that each of us may have a slightly different approach, some spitting out great inspiring poems like a machine, while others must have the urge hit us in the face, the right urge, at the right time and then words flow like water. While possibly less production and with maybe less instantaneous inspiration, but usually more lasting self pleasure.

    We have many good authors, who write books like a machine, but now and then we have one that may only write “To Kill a Mockingbird” by inspiration rather than looking for a subject.



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