Poem Writing Process


A number of you are curious about my process in writing a poem.  I usually answer that I have no idea.  The poems seem to arrive whole.  I know they’re created from bits and pieces of my life, what I notice, how I feel, but in most cases that’s about as far as it goes.  However, I’m increasingly aware when the thought—the knowledge-- flashes that the moment will be in a poem.

I was sitting around a table with friends and noticed one had a “big gulp” cup from a fast food restaurant with the words: “eat like you mean it” imprinted on the side.  “Hmmm,” said my muse.  An hour later, I was drying my hands on an automatic blower with the words “Feel the power” printed on top.  “Hmmm,” she said a second time.  I had no idea how or when, but knew these phrases would find their way into my poetry. And they did.

When I got home that day, I was thinking about the memorial service I would be attending the next day for Mimi, a woman in my bereavement group we had all come to love and admire.  She was in her nineties, and was a model for aging with energy and style.  Impeccably dressed, she would share at our group she had driven to Las Vegas the previous weekend for a special occasion.  She met her husband on a boat to Catalina, where she was a singer entertaining the passengers.  They were married over 60 years.  The thought occurred that I would like to write a poem for Mimi.  I sat at the computer, and this is what I wrote:

    For Mimi


    Grieve like you mean it,

    feel like you mean it,

    cry like you mean it,

    dance like you mean it,

    laugh like you mean it,

    rejoice like you mean it.

    Feel the power

    of vulnerability

    living like you mean it.

Thank you, Muse.  Mimi, we will miss you.