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How To Write a Poem

According To Me

First you stare at some furniture as you let yourself feel every ounce of everything from a stubbed toe to the truth. Crying in the shower is also acceptable way of meditating on these things.

When you finish, fish out a cozy notebook. Not one you have pristine and perfect but one that has doodles in the margin. Write out a sentence. Just one sentence. Write out the truest sentence you can pull out of your head. It doesn’t have to be about you specifically. It can be about loving someone or someone not loving you. It doesn’t have to be something accusing or definite like “ He is very wrong” or like “ I hate her.” More like “I cannot imagine anyone not loving you” or “ You would have had to have been whole at one time.”

When you pull the rawest form of you into words, build on it. Every house needs a foundation and every poem needs truth. So go on, build your house. Then put up the walls. Put in carpets and paint the rooms something sensible... or not. Pull in furniture from your last house and new furniture from the store. Leave your baggage by the door while you rearrange couches and tables. You will probably find yourself going back and forth. I can't tell you how many times I put one thing in one spot then I moved it only for it to find it’s back into its original position. When you finally put everything in its place, go make the beds. Tuck in all the corners and fluff the pillows. Then put all the clothes away in tightly organized drawers.

Put all the tear and coffee stained (or tea stained or hot cocoa stained) pages in front of you. In my experience, I have found that if it takes the wind out of you, you probably are doing something right. Go on now, organize it a bit. You could put your heart at the top of the page. You could even put it at the end if you would like. You could put your mind in the middle or string it all over the place, just like mine. Those are the two important things. Those are the essentials. These things cannot be without each other. A mind cannot be without a heart and a heart cannot be without a mind. But if you like, you could put some hope in there. You could put your lungs in it. That's a poem that I am sure will take somebody's breath away. If that's not enough, you can sit back and remember. Remember how you loved; how you lost. How it felt like they had to rip him from your bones. But don't forget to remember how it felt love someone that much. As the great poet Maya Angelou put it, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." My friend, do not make her a liar.

When you finally put the entire house in order, pick up your baggage and take something out. It could be a lamp or a pot. It could be a stuffed bear or a doily. Or even your favorite pair of underpants! Leave it in a spot that someone will find. Just one thing to mark it yours, even if no one ever knows it is yours. Even if no one cares. Because isn’t that what we do? We are poets and we build things out of ourselves and leave it for others.

So build your house, my fellow poet, and let someone else live in it.

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