Where do poems come from?
Some of them, of course, come from hard work, scribbling, erasing, scribbling some more. Coming back later to revise, revise, revise.
But then others seem to emerge whole from the poet’s brain–or do poems originate in the soul?
One place where I can usually find a poem just waiting to be molded is in my own experiences, especially those experiences that are rich with emotions–even crappy ones. When I sit down to write such a poem, I think about not just the visual images, but the way I felt at the time. The smells and sounds. How my body felt being in that place. I don’t include everything (a poem shouldn’t over-tell the story). Instead, I list three to five details that are central to recreating the Feeling of Being There in that moment.
Recently, I spent a heck of a lot of time in the emergency room, waiting with a loved one who was sick. Emergency rooms kill souls, and I felt that the experience needed a poem–mostly as a way to wash my hands (and brain) of it. Poetry is cleansing.
I wanted to capture the harshness of the lights (I’m very sensitive to light), the coldness of the room, and the endless horror of waiting. Here’s the result:
5 Hours in the E.R.
I much prefer green air
Filled with splinter lightning
To this harsh fluorescence.
Time is a slow drip–
And this room
Has swallowed the world.
There is no more before–
Only now and after.
And waiting is often made of fear.
These walls harbor cold–
Drying out my eyes.
Even the soles of my feet are tired.
Now for your assignment: Think of an experience you have had within the last five years. Choose one that included both strong emotions and intense sights/sounds/smells/sensations.
Now make a list of 3 to 5 details you feel capture the way you experienced that event. Work those details into a poem–but not a lot else. Don’t over-tell the story. If you’d like, use the title to set the stage (as I did).
If you’d like to share your poem, drop it in the comments below. (No erotica, please).