How to Write Poetry

Use your pen to gut yourself:
lay your intestines on the platter of a page.

Take a look at yourself without a mirror — what do you see?

Poke yourself until you figure out where it hurts,
then ooze your mucus to make ink for your pen.

Stare off into the distance until your mind is across the street
climbing up a tree with a squirrel.

Take off all your clothes, sit in the sun, ask questions
no one has answers to. Make one up, scratch it out, make up another.
Do it again until you understand why
no one has an answer to that question.

Imagine you’ve lost an eye,
or been in a car accident,
or walked into a hornet’s nest,
or told a stranger you love them,
or saw a dog with three legs — running. Take notes.
Refuse to abandon the ugliness of human nature.
Instead, write it into beauty
with the uniqueness of your perspective.

Capture a caterpillar and watch it cocoon.
Set it free once it has wings. Learn to let go.

Buy a plant and forget to water it. Notice how it shrivels.
Water it. Notice how quickly, again, it shines.
Notice how easily its needs are met. Take notes.

Drink an entire bottle of wine, alone, with your dog or cat or pet lizard.
When you wake up with a hangover, open your journal and pull out a pen.
Write two pages of nothing in particular until you’ve said something well — keep going.

Wake up at 4 AM, go back to sleep at noon;
eat dinner for breakfast, have a doughnut for lunch,
drink coffee that evening. Take notes.

Amuse yourself without the use of technology.
Get lost while taking a walk. Smile at the homeless man,
with his sign of goodwill on the corner;
curse capitalism when you pass by.
Wonder about his backstory. Make one up — take notes.

When first lines strike you like a cold breeze
on a hot day in July, drop what you’re doing
and write what you hear.
Feel the words coming through you, less from you.
Throw away nothing you write: keep all of it:
We don’t decide our own masterpieces.

Write selfishly. Write with passion and vigor,
with blood and authenticity.
Write down the stories that keep you up at night.
They might be true; they might be your own; they might not.
Use your pen to transform a trauma
into a something you can hold, then let it go.

Forget where you come from, ignore where you’re going,
look around. Take yourself to dinner.
Bring a book if it pleases you.
Ask the waiter about their life — use it as a prompt later.

Rip out stories from newspapers and magazines.
Stitch sentences together with glue.

Give a friend advice on paper.
Don’t give it to them. Take your own advice.

Read old journal entries. See how far you’ve come.
Imagine yourself in three years: write a journal entry from the future.
Don’t read it.

Write down the five things that matter to you most;
ask yourself why it matters. Take notes.

Buy a plant you can eat. Document its growth from seed to harvest.

Pay attention to how thoughts feel inside your body.

Count the number of different bird calls
you hear outside your window.
Learn what kind of birds they are — take notes.

Write down your favorite clichés; describe the same idea in your own way.

Turn events into metaphors and see circumstances as similes.

Most importantly, slow down.

Lightly touch your finger to the tips of cactus needles.
If you bleed, write of the cactus’ strength.

When you think you can write no more, there is something you refuse to look at.
To overcome writer’s block, write where you are now.
Not in location but in spirit, in emotion,
in fear, shortcomings, excitement,
in chaos, or love.

It doesn’t matter where you begin —
the poetry will carve into your soul
like an artist sanding stone.
And you will not be able to deny
how gorgeous your being.

 

*originally published 3/26/16

Poetry, WritingConner Carey