Keeping a Poetry Journal

“15 Roosters–free to a good home.”

My sister read this ad in the paper a couple of days ago. She read it aloud to me, and I laughed. There’s a story there, just waiting to be told. As soon as I got home, I wrote it in my poetry journal. That’s where I store lines until I’m ready to use them.

My poetry journal is also the place where I draft poems. It’s a place where I revise. It’s a place where I scribble. I mark words out, shift them around, then finally settle on a form.

I suppose my poetry journal is my workshop–it’s where I build poems.

This morning, I woke up with my cat purring next to me. My second coherent thought of the day was wishing I could live inside her purr. (My first coherent thought was “Why do I have a dog?” He just kept on barking, barking and barking and barking. In fact, he is barking now, as I type this.)

As soon as I crawled out of bed, I wrote in my journal:

“If only I could live inside a cat’s purr.”

Every now and then, for inspiration, I flip through my poetry journal, looking for stray lines. Someday, I’ll find this one and give it a home.

What if
Snug inside
A cat’s purr?

Or perhaps this line deserves a haiku:

What if I could live
Safely inside the rumble,
Purr, Purr of a cat?

Wherever it eventually settles, for now the line is tucked away for safekeeping in the pages of my poetry journal.

So here’s your assignment: Get a poetry journal. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It can just be a notebook. However, it must be only for your poetry. And I would discourage you from sharing it with anyone. This is your place to create and be messy. It’s a place to try new things, to take risks with words–and never mind the consequences. No one is going to read the poems you create there until you set them free.

Consider what you write in your poetry journal to be in draft form. Nothing is final until you decide it is. Revision is part of improving your craft, and your poetry journal is a good place to do all that messy business of polishing and perfecting.


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