Sunday, September 21, 2014

Finding inspiration in the world around you

Some people say writer's block is a myth. I think it's more of just a lack of inspiration. The imagination well may feel dry, but trying to observe like around you in a different way can dispel that gray pall. 

Take a good look around you. 

Your walk to work. Are there people sleeping on benches? Is your favorite coffee shop on your way? 

Car ride to drop off the kids at soccer practice. Is there a Mom you try to avoid? Wonder what her life is like at home? 

The scar on your knee: Remember that time you were trying to sneak into a concert, 
and you snagged your jeans while trying to snake through that hole in the fence?

You cats wrapped around your ankles while sipping pumpkin latte from your favorite mug. Feels like home doesn't it? 

The crisp sounds of leaves crunching under your feet. Can you smell autumn in the air? 

Stopping to smell the roses on your way to the mailbox, It reminds you of grandmother.

Anything can be inspiration. 

The best tool to have in your poet's kit, are your senses, especially when you're paying attention to the emotions. One of the reasons people connect to poetry is the feelings it evokes. Taking in the words, interpreting them through the reader's lens of experience and then she nods in understanding.

If you're feeling the pinch of writer's block and you're wondering what to write. If you're looking for inspiration and you're coming up short, try looking at things a different way. Try closing your eyes and listening to the world around you. What do you hear? Even if your home is quiet, you may still hear birds tweeting outside, the house settling on its haunches or the clack of your dogs toenails against the vinyl kitchen floor. What do the sounds tell you?

Try imagining what your life would look like from the outside looking in. You may find it mundane, but your grandchildren running around driving around batty while your husband is snoozing in the lounge chair could make for an interesting poem about home, family and life. 

There's so much inspiration in the world around you. You may just need to look a with a new pair of eyes. 

Count Down: 9 Days until OctPoWriMo!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Poems About Life - Real or Not

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.” ― Lauren Bacall

Often poets write about what's around them and their own lives, I've even read a few Poetic Memoirs. Sometimes it's nice to go off into fairy land or write what I like to call fictional story poems. That's actually the type of poem (Beauty Denied) that brought me back to writing poetry again after so many years.

Image created by Morgan Dragonwillow

I have written quite a few poems since then and most of them are poems about life, my life and what I see around me. But there are a few (some even my favorites) that are written as a story - short but still a story. Such is my poem Lipstick. I actually pulled this word out of the dictionary with the intent of writing an acrostic poem and almost picked another word. I came up with this instead. I'm glad I let my imagination come out to play.

Lying between the sheets, she slowly smiles.
Images running through her mind of the night before.
Perfume blends with muskier scents lingering in the air.
Silence is broken as the trash truck rumbles down the street.
Tissue paper flutters by the open window.
Ideas floating through her mind of how she’d prefer to spend her day.
Café down the street sounds like a wonderful start.
Knocking at the door, she turns and sees someone’s lipstick on the floor.

What type of poetry do you tend to write? Do you tend to stick with poems about your life or do you enjoy creating fictional stories with your poetry?

A Few of My Favorite Poetry Tips from OctPoWriMo 2012:

Count Down: 10 Days until OctPoWriMo!

Time is going by quickly, are you ready for this poetry challenge, will you be sharing your poetry on your blog? Make sure you if you are on Twitter that you share your poem posts with the hashtag #OctPoWriMo so that other participants can find you. You can also share and chat with us on Facebook in our Writing Poetry Group.

Morgan Dragonwillow: Rebel dancing with words, intuitive cook, recovering perfectionist, poet & author that (mostly) doesn't let her fears get in the way of her passion for writing and creating. She is team leader at @StoryDam, creatrix of #OctPoWriMo, and you can find her at, A Poet's Kitchen, cooking up simply delicious meals. She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she's a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn't.
You can find her on Google+


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Friday, September 19, 2014

OctPoWriMo 2014 - It's OK... just write!


Today I am having one of those days where my world is not making sense. For 19 years, I was a high school teacher. In all that time and in the two years since I left the profession, I have been blessed to have never experienced what finally occurred today. I never had to deal with the death of a student (or former student). Now that has changed. I read the sad news just before the beginning of a design class that I'm taking and spent the next 2 1/2 hours working on a project that resulted in a minor disaster. Because I was preoccupied trying to understand how and why a vibrant young woman in her 30s is no longer with us, I made a simple but critical error in assembling the pieces of the assignment at hand. Still in shock from the news of Jen's passing, I compounded my own negative emotional state by making (what I consider) a "rookie" mistake. 
As I thought about what insights about poetry I might be able to share with you after all that occurred for me today, I came across the quote I've shared above. It struck something deep within me, though I want to change it to "...why should I write poems that do?"
But that is exactly WHY I need to write tonight. I need to ball up all of the sadness and anger that I'm feeling and throw it out onto my paper (or screen) as some pathetic, trite ugliness. Release all of the hurt and disappointment into (perhaps) a nonsense poem. Once that is done, I believe it will be easier to take a step back, take a deep breath, and write something beautiful and meaningful. 
The reason I've shared all of this with you is to remind you of one of the greatest lessons to be learned about writing poetry (or any other creative form) - It's ok to write crap. 
Now, if you would, please excuse me while I get started...

~ Amy McGrath

Thursday, September 18, 2014

OctPoWriMo Review: If you are like me, this anthology will inspire you like none other - Fire on Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry

When I opened up my box from Amazon, I had forgotten I included this book in my order. I looked at it and thought, "Oh, ok...." and opened the pages of the other two books I had ordered, one by Terry Tempest Williams and one by Natalie Goldbergs, women writers I adore with all my heart.

I was going to rehearsal and thought perhaps this new collection of poems might be good "filler" for my time there.

I wasn't expecting what would happen next.

I opened this collection of poetry and met a quote from my beloved Emily Dickinson. It was a familiar one which didn’t faze me.

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.”
Then I started reading and realized in the curation process for Fire on Her Tongue, An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry, editors Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Covy must have held this quote as their intention.

If I read a poetry book and I can’t stop writing my own poetry as a result, I know it will become one of the best loved books on my shelf and live more in my hands and open, on my desk, then up there with other books.

The book is a dense 368 pages filled with poets such as Kim Addonizio, Jane Hirschfield, Alicia Ostriker as well as friends of mine Deborah Ager, January Gill-O’Neil  and Jill Crammond.

I turn the page and read from Susan Rich, “Relax, the sky is wide open, climb into it.”

I touch my face and read from January Gill-O’Neil, “Praise our scars - the small gashes and the long serpentine tracks that make up our unbeauty.”

I come to the final poem by Rachel Zucker and read, “I’m writing under the mostly flat blaze of a bulb but a poem written with the light itself a tiny fleeting love poem to life - hot hot hot - a poem that would say oh look here a bright spot of life, oh look another!”

I pick up this collection.

I read a poem or two.

I write a line or two or twelve of my own poetry.

When you step into a challenge like OctPoWriMo, you will like an anthology such as this one to keep your journey light. It will inspire you. It will make you want to be a better poet.

- Julie Jordan Scott

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Finding the Words When They Feel Lost

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don'tgive up.” ― Anne Lamott

Sometimes when the words feel lost, it isn't about having writer's block, doubt, or fear. Sometimes it is about being so closed off, the words can't come through. You can be so locked down that your words can't find a way to the page.

Art by Morgan Dragonwillow

The page isn't the enemy, it is actually the only place that won't talk back, argue with you, or try to make you be something that you aren't.

You can tell the page anything and everything, your deepest secrets, your deepest longings and it will always be there for you, ready to listen.

We are less than two weeks until OctPoWriMo begins, this is a reminder that you can spend the month breathing onto the page your every thought in whatever form you wish, share or not share, just show up at the page.

Three of my favorite tips from last year:

  1. What Poetry Tools Do You Have?
  2. Why I Was Scared Away From Writing Poetry When I Was Young
  3. To Writers Who Don't Think They Can Write Poetry

OctPoWriMo, where the rules are thrown out the window. Show up to the page and let the words flow.

Count Down: 13 Days until OctPoWriMo!

Morgan Dragonwillow: Rebel dancing with words, intuitive cook, recovering perfectionist, poet & author that (mostly) doesn't let her fears get in the way of her passion for writing and creating. She is team leader at @StoryDam, creatrix of #OctPoWriMo, and you can find her at, A Poet's Kitchen, cooking up simply delicious meals. She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she's a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn't.
You can find me at Google+


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

OctPoWriMo's (and Your) Poetic Family Tree

For those who have been around my blog for a while, you know I have a passion for “literary grannies” – the women writers who went before us who may or may not have gotten noticed for the words they have written. I try to get the word out about them so women who write today may have a sense of literary lineage.

Then along came a prompt from BlogHer.
Leaf from a Family Tree via Flickr
This leaf of one family tree is courtesy of Happy Via on Flickr  via Creative Commons License

It wanted to know about my family tree!

Naturally this makes me want to make a literary family tree.

Perhaps now, I will. 

Who would I count in my direct line?

I would certainly memoirists, poets, activists and letter writers.

I would count Charlotte Perkins Gilman, writer of the paradigm shifting The Yellow Wallpaper among other poems, essays, speeches and other things. She was also mother to a Katharine.

I would count Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Diarist, Novelist, early Aviator, Poet and Mother who lived through a lot of her very public life in a very veiled fashion. Her words are absolutely beautiful and she was perpetually standing up for women having the space to write, not unlike another in my direct line: Virginia Woolf.

Somewhere out there is Laura Ingalls Wilder, a childhood favorite and well known Granny, and also Margaret Fuller, whose home I visited not long ago. A couple other Massachusetts literary Aunties: Louisa May Alcott and Emily Dickinson come to mind.

I absolutely must have Edna St. Vincent Millay in my lineage. Yesterday a friend of mine quoted her to me - without even knowing she was quoting her - and it was as if Vincent herself was speaking with me.

There was a time when I wasn't familiar at all with many past poets. I was not an English major and I wrote poetry but didn't spend much time reading poetry anthologies or collections.

What I will tell you is this: going to my local bookstore (and later, the library) and thumbing through unknown to me anthologies and then purchasing them and reading them changed my life as a poet and as a person.

My poetry improved, my life improved, and I felt forever connected to a world I
Writing on the steps of poet Gertrude Stein
didn't even know existed until then. If you don't have the resources to get to a bookstore or library, a visit to Poetry Magazine's website will suffice quite nicely.

Poetry Magazine is over 100 years old and was founded by Literary Granny Harriet Monroe, a woman who singlehandedly made the career of many once-unknown poets. She put her own taste aside to be present to the "happenings" in the world of poetry within that particular generation.

On the Poetry Foundation website is the entire archive of Poetry Magazine. Go there, now, even if you can get to a bookstore or a library. Read at least one poem a day there before OctPoWriMo. Read the poem several times a day and allow its language and style to sink into you. This WILL change your poetry and your life for the better.

Who is in your poetic family tree?

-- Julie Jordan Scott 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Octpowrimo 2014 - Five Ws and an H

I'm sure most of us are familiar with the "big" questions that we deal with when writing. In the past couple of weeks, we've had some posts about the "Why?" question and have shared some of our personal reasons. In the last week before we kick off October, I'll address the "What?" and "How?" questions with some ideas you may enjoy. For this post, though, let's consider the questions of "Who? Where? And When?"


Who are we writing for? Are we writing purely for ourselves? For blog readers? For friends and family? Personally, I am a very selfish writer. I write for me first. Only after I've written something do I look at who else might be interested in what I've created. Sometimes the contents is of a nature that I know appeals to my mom or my best friend. Other times, it may be something about my illnesses and recovery. Perhaps I've written about a sunset I saw on my way home. My content will almost always determine who my poetry is for.


Where do you do your best writing? Do you write in a coffee shop with a nice caramel latte? Or are you in the comfort of your own home, sitting in a comfortable chair, writing in your pajamas? Maybe you have found you do your best writing at a desk. I think this is a fun question. I always, ALWAYS have a journal of some kind with me, so I can (and often do) write whenever an idea pops up. I love writing with a group of other writers. I'm lucky enough to have a very active writing community where I live that meets regularly for "write-ins" at a local restaurant. I like being out in the world, letting the environment inspire me.


When do you do your best writing? Are you a morning writer who has to get it done early before the happenings of the day get in your way? Are you a night owl, burning the midnight oil because your muse comes alive after dark? Perhaps you're like me. I have found that my writing usually happens most easily when I'm faced with a looming deadline. (For example, this post goes live in 3 hours and here I am just now getting it done!) Pressure leads to productivity for me. Does this always produce quality writing? No, but I'd venture to guess that no other times are any more influential on the quality of my creations. When I'm faced with a deadline, my inner critic knows to be silent and just let me get the words down. When I have more time on my hands, the opposite happens and I end up picking a piece apart, never really satisfied with what I've done. 

So what about you? Who do you write for? When and where do you write? I'd love to see your comments below!

We're only 15 days away now! 

~Amy McGrath