07 Jan A few tips for writing beautiful, adventure-inspired poetry!
“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” -Plato
My official “poetry training” is as follows: I started writing poems as a child on an old, manual typewriter. That’s it. I’ve never taken a class on how to write a poem. I vaguely remember learning something about, “iambic pentameter”, but I would need to use Google to remember what it means. I know what a haiku is, but otherwise, if you are looking for some sort of definitive poetry training, I have no clue what I’m talking about – and I’m so incredibly thankful for that. I write poetry from a place in my soul where it pours out freely like a fountain – not from a mechanically devised “formula” or method. In college, I was a Latin major, and my favorite class of all time was a semester devoted to Roman Love Poetry. I delighted in translating the verses of Catullus.
I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life, but for some reason, I never shared it – it felt so vulnerable to me. What if somebody didn’t like it? What if my poetry wasn’t good? Finally, I realized that none of that mattered. I like the poetry and I like how it makes me feel when I write it. I kept feeling the urge to share it, which I now know is a gentle tug from my heart – leading the way on my own path. I still remember how nervous I was when I shared my first poem – I was petrified! But, guess what? Nobody threw tomatoes at me – in fact, people liked it! So, here I am writing an entire post about poetry. Life is beautiful and surprising: listen to your heart and it will never lead you astray.
I’m going to share a few of my favorite poems, and talk about the moments that inspired them. I’ve found that the simplest way for me to write a poem is to simply put an intention into the world that I want to “see poetry” in the normal things in life. Then, I just allow the poems to come to me very organically, without forcing them to appear.
On the day that I wrote this particular poem, I had been attempting to “force” a poem. I kept trying to write something, but nothing was coming to me, and I was getting frustrated that I had lost my knack. Something I believe wholeheartedly is that life happens for you, not to you. When you can have this mindset about everything, instead of becoming frustrated in the moment it makes you curious: what is it that I need to learn right now about this particular moment in time? I realized that the world was trying to tell me that I needed to let go – that I need to allow things to happen, rather than trying to force them to happen. I took a nap and did a meditation, and when I came out of the meditation, this poem popped into my head almost instantly.
I tried to write a poem once
But when I placed my pen on the paper
It just sat there
As if all the ink in the world had dried
And I didn’t want to waste a drop
I’ll paint instead, I said
So I dipped my brush in color
But not in my heart
And the paint fell flat
Like a sunset
Without the sun
Music, I thought
Surely my notes will come
And so I took my violin
And begged it to be beautiful for me
But it merely shrugged
Not today, I heard it whisper
My words, my art, my notes
Taken from me
When I needed them
To drench my life with glitter
I thought they were gone
So I sat down
With no pen, no brush and no bow
I sat with just me
It’s not them, I heard
You are the thing
Not the words or the paint or the notes
Don’t you see?
They do not make you
They are not you
You make them
You are the glitter ✨
Most of my poems are inspired by my adventures in the wilderness – particularly, the times when I bring my violin into the mountains. A few months ago, Rose and I climbed a mountain with Claire Giordano and Nikki Frumkin. They painted watercolors of Mt. Rainier while we played music. Visual artists produce work that you can see and feel and touch, but music is different – you can hear it and feel it, but you can’t touch it. However, on this particular occasion, I felt like my notes were captured in Claire and Nikki’s paintings – it was the first time that I felt like I could “see” my notes on paper. Inspired by this idea, I wrote a poem about it.
“Ink of my Heart”
As the world begins to lift the curtain of dawn
As a new day begins
So we paint…
You with your brush
Me with my notes
Color to paper
Music to sky
Did you know that I drew that sunrise for you with the ink of my heart?
Did you know that you weren’t really painting a mountain?
A lot of my poems are inspired by revelations that I have had through my own journey of self-discovery. In fact, I feel like most of the times, my poems are a reflection of some of my personal struggles and how I have overcome them. In many cases, I try and take something very “normal” – such as self-doubt or overcoming obstacles, and relate it to something that has as very “magical” feel to it. I wish I had a scientific way to describe how I do this, but many times I will start a poem with merely one line – I will sit with my eyes closed and meditate on that one line and see what comes to me. Sometimes I will write part of a poem on paper, and then get “stuck” on a particular phrase – so I will change the medium and type the poem into my phone, and suddenly the words will get “unstuck” and the poem will resolve itself. I’ve often said that I don’t know where the poems come from, and I really do mean that – it is almost a spiritual experience to write my poems – they “appear” to me, rather than me forcing them out. My best advice would be to find a quiet place to sit and meditate about a certain topic, and see what pops into your head. Poetry that resonates on a deeply emotional level, comes from a difference place in our minds – it doesn’t come from the doing, rather, it comes from the being.
This poem was written after I filmed a short video of myself talking about my story. In the video, I cried when I shared the fact that I had lived most of my life thinking that I was, “just some girl”; that I had lived my life believing that I wasn’t special or capable of great things. I write the best poetry when I am tapped into my emotions on a non-superficial level. I felt that thinking I was, “just some girl” was such a universal concept. In my own coaching, I’ve seen how many people struggle from a lack of confidence or self-doubt. It made me wonder about the women who have accomplished incredible things in this world – and it made me realize that they were very likely no different than you or me, but rather, they just made the decision to go for it. I hope you love this poem and I hope that it helps you realize that you aren’t just, “some girl”. You are you, and that is the only thing that you ever have to be in life.
‘Some Girl’ (12/28/17)
There was this time once
When I didn’t think I deserved anything
Because who was I?
I was just some girl
I said, I do these things
But I’m only OK at them
I’m no Clara Schumann with her music
Or Mary Oliver with her words
I’m just some girl
I wonder if they ever said that too
I wonder if Clara ever thought that her notes weren’t good enough
Or if Mary hesitated before touching her pen to the paper
I wonder if they were once just some girls,
I like to think they were
But that one day they decided
That they could
Be anything they wanted to be
Artists of life
Each note, each word
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I am currently starting a personal project where I write poetic “letters” to the things/people in my life who have had a huge impact on who I am. The first “letter” that I ever wrote, was a letter to my violin. This project started because I simply wanted to find a way to express my gratitude in a way that felt authentic to me. When I sit down to write a poetic letter, I just allow the words to come to me – I truly visualize myself with the experience of having this person or this thing in my life, and I ask myself what that means to me on a very emotional level. This letter to my violin is probably one of my favorite poems ever. My violin has always been a part of my life, but it felt so good to “tell it” how much it truly means to me. I also love the fact that you can write a letter to anything – thereby giving “life” to something inanimate, like a violin. Poetry is indeed the art of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary – and, in this case, making my violin come to life.
‘A letter to my violin’
I have loved you from the moment we first met, but I did not always remember you.
There were times when I threw my music across the room and cried because the Bach Double Concerto was so frustrating.
There were times when I didn’t want to practice.
Actually, there were A LOT of times I didn’t want to practice.
But you never left me.
You were my voice at my grandfather’s funeral.
You were my friend when I felt unloved.
You were with me through the lowest points in my life.
Even when I forgot you, you waited.
You waited for me to open the case
What it felt like to pull a bow across the string.
What it felt like to hear the beating of my heart transposed into notes.
You are the soundtrack of my life.
Every memory, every tear, every laugh, every love I have ever felt is
Woven into your wooden fabric.
The secrets we have shared give life to our music.
You always knew I would come back.
You always knew we would climb mountains.
A few other notes – I shape my poems solely based on how they feel to me, so if I feel like I need to use punctuation, I use it. If I feel like I need to start a new sentence or a stanza, I do it. Sometimes I write poetry that rhymes, other times I do not – it is entirely based on what it feels like to me in that moment, I am never following any “rules” (are there “rules” to poetry? I hope not!) at all. I think that the most important thing about writing poetry is that it should be fun and not challenging – if I find myself getting frustrated or feeling the need to produce mass quantities of poems, they lose their magic. Poems, like a painting or like a piece of music, are a way to speak on a deeply emotional level. For me, they are a way to see the extraordinary in the ordinary… or sometimes they are a way to explain the extraordinary moments in life (i.e. playing my violin on the summit of a mountain). A poem is a special keepsake of a memory – not only is it capturing a moment in time, but it is capturing the pure essence of that moment and how it made me feel. It is a way that I can share the deepest observations of my soul and the most vulnerable part of myself with others. It is like unlocking a secret chamber to my heart (of course, this sentence gives me an idea for a new poem).
Ha! Sitting here writing this post, I wrote this, inspired by the line above that I wrote. I actually wasn’t intending to include a brand new poem, but that’s how poetry happens – it just magically appears out of nowhere – isn’t that incredible! This is exactly why I love poetry so much.
I’ve given you the key
To the secret chamber of my heart
What will you do with it?
Will you toss it away
Like it doesn’t matter
Or will you put it on a golden cord
And wear it around your neck
Dangling above your chest
To feel the beating
Of your own heart
What magic is brought into this world
When I share my heart with you
What other door can you unlock
With that key?
What other questions do you have about poetry? Have you written any poems, or do you have anything in particular that you would like for me to write a poem about?
I hope that you have a beautiful adventure-inspired day today – keep bringing light into the world. Remember – this day includes you.