Wordsmith Wednesday–12 Sources of Poetic Inspiration

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Today I’ve been considering the sources we poets turn to for poetic inspiration–so today’s Wordsmith Wednesday is for poets although I’m sure that it can be useful to prose writers as well. I’m going to short-list some of the sources I turn to to be inspired in my writing. I’m hoping that you will add to it in the comments section.

  • Nature–look for details, metaphors, lessons that are present all around us. When stuck, it often helps me to take a walk. I’m blessed to live in a place that is replete with nature’s offerings.
  • Reading–read other poets. Their work often tickles my creative muse. I’ve mentioned some of my favorites in my list of recommended reading.
  • News sources–look for the seeds of story-poems hidden in the newspaper, on the Internet or on TV news broadcast.
  • Poetic Forms–do an Internet search and check out poetic forms. For me, the discipline of a form can jump-start and idea.
  • Spirituality–look to metaphysical/religious ideas and writings such as the Bible or holy books of other spiritual traditions. Look within at your own spiritual experience.
  • Relationships–these evoke emotional reactions that are often begging to be expressed.
  • History–check out historical events as well as your own history. There are stories to tell.
  • Mythology–although this is not an area of expertise for me, I’ve read much poetry that draws on the classical myths, stories that transcend time.
  • Science–a wonderful well-spring of poetic inspiration.
  • Art–Use painting, sculpture, photography and translate your experience into words.
  • Writing Prompts–those of us who participate in writing communities have a wealth of material tossed out at us on a daily or weekly basis. Check out some of the sites on my blogroll. I’d love to see you link up to my own Monday Morning Writing Prompt.
  • Political issues–need I say more? My personal viewpoint is to stay away from personal attacks and stick to the issues.

I hope these will be helpful to you, especially if you are feeling stuck right now. There are more–help me expand the list if you will!

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–A Day Late

As I get more and more immersed in the world of poetry, I’m forgetting other things that I’ve committed to. Yesterday I spent a lot of time reading wonderful poetry from Jingle’s Poetry Potluck and then met in person with my PA group (Poet’s Anonymous) to critique each others’ work. The bottom line: I forgot to post a writing prompt to jump-start the week for those of us who may be stuck.

So, for today, try writing a short piece of prose or poetry, perhaps memoir, about something you forgot that had unintended consequences and post a link in comments if you will.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Writing and Music

I have music in my DNA, thanks to my grandmother who was a concert pianist and organist (and quite a character)! Although I studied some piano and played the organ in church, it’s been awhile since I’ve touched any keyboard other than my computer. But still, music lingers in my soul and body and, I’ve come to realize, invades my writing, sometimes without my being aware of it.

First, there is the obvious example of meter: the rhythmic flow of words to create emphasis or relief. Even free-form poetry and prose fall subject to rules of meter and for most of us this becomes an almost unconscious process. Have you ever found yourself searching for a two-syllable word instead of one with three-syllables because you sense, instinctively, that this would be more effective, would add more beauty?

Musical metaphors can enrich prose as well. Here’s an example from “Winter is Past,” in which the protagonist is reflecting on someone she loves:  For my part, I sat in silence and absorbed the words like notes of a fugue. The theme was life. The range of emotions covered octaves. Notes of joy, sorrow, revelry, and humor played a concert in my mind.

Using music to enhance description or setting can serve to create or reflect the mood of a scene as well. Do you want to convey relaxation or agitation, love or anger–think of a composition that reflects the emotional tone you want to achieve. 

Although it’s not part of my writing ritual, I’ve read of writers who play music in the background while they work. One even chose to record a soundtrack that conveyed the theme of his novel.

How does music inspire or transform your writing?

Tune in tomorrow morning for the Monday writing prompt. Chances are it will somehow relate to this post.

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–July 5, 2010

One of my favorite exercises to help myself emerge from a creative slump is to take a dictionary and open it to random pages. Allow yourself to choose a word that appeals to you, then repeat the process about ten times or oftener if you like. You will be surprised how a theme emerges that allows you to construct a poem or short piece of prose with some degree of cohesiveness. Here is an example of a poem I wrote some time ago.


Was it only because the
shadows of crows’ wings
broke across winter fields?

Or because a fractured
glacier succumbed to
oblivion and thus
disappointed beauty?

In the silence of a
hermit’s breath
you can unravel
the sound of grace.

Did the journey
to the center of the
forest tear a
hole in the earth?

Or the void collapse
beneath the burden
of a ponderous
chord? Did dissonance

dissolve the barrier
between ocean and
tide pool until a
wave paused to reflect?

Do you think the light
will come back again
when clay pot shards
become whole?

Did you hear terra-

To me this technique speaks to the role of the unconscious in the creative process. Mind you, the poetry is perhaps more obscure than what I usually produce. But it’s fun–try it and, if you will, post it in comments.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Poetry and Prose

Since April is National Poetry Month, I think it’s important to pay a bit of attention to this sometimes undervalued art. Many prose writers, especially those who write literary fiction, dabble in poetry–either as readers or poets–and find that doing so enriches their own work. Here are a few things to consider:


  • Engages the senses
  • Pays attention to details
  • Uses symbolic language
  • Expresses thoughts succinctly
  • Respects the rythmn and sound of words
  • Makes use of metaphor and simile
  • Uses description to express feelings
  • Breaks the rules!

I invite you to treat yourself to a book of poetry, brew a cup of tea or coffee. Now, hunker down in your favorite chair and read. My preference is for poets who are not so obscure that you need a lit professor to help interpret their work. Here are a few of my favorites, most of them contemporary: Ted Kooser, Kim Addonizio, Jane Hirschfiled, Jane Kenyon, Ellen Bass, William Carlos Williams, and oh so many others. You might want to subscribe to some poetry blogs or websites such as poems.com that offer a daily poetry fix.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process…and try writing a poem of your own. If you’d like to post it in comments, I’d love to see and, perhaps, share it.