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Poem It Out Classroom

Filtering by Tag: let's poem

week 4: three poems + a prompt

liz lamoreux

shadow self. (hello sun)

my shadow self

As we wind down our time together, I want to encourage you to continue reading and writing poetry. Because I know I've given you a lot to explore, today, I want to share three poems + give you a writing prompt.

Three poems that I simply love:

"Sonnet, Without Salmon" by Sherman Alexie 

"Song of Myself I and II" by Walt Whitman 

"Otherwise" by Jane Kenyon 

A Weekend Prompt (because I just want to give you one more prompt): Write a poem to or about your shadow self.

Possible places to begin: You could write a letter to your shadow. You might want to name your shadow (that could be the title of your poem). Consider describing your shadow or a day in the life of your shadow. You could pair a poem note with a shadow photo if you've taken one this week.

week 4: today, i'm giving you permission to...

liz lamoreux

video URL: https://vimeo.com/40975734
video password: poeming

Prompt: Eavesdrop (and then write a poem)

Today's prompt is also a poetry creative adventure because I'm asking you to go out into the world and listen and take notes about what you hear, and then take those notes and write a poem. I hope you have a lot of fun with this one!

Here are two poems to inspire your poeming today.

The first is by David Lehman and is from his book The Evening Sun: A Journal in Poetry, which is a collection of his daily poems from 1999-2000. The poem is "November 4" and you can read it here. I love how this poem is about a sound he overheard someone make and the observations he made as a result. (This poem kind of makes me giggle and nod my head.) Find out more about David Lehman at Poetry Foundation (he is the editor of The Best American Poetry series and a poet you should add to your poetry bookshelf).

The second is the following poem by me:

Sunday Morning at the Pacific Way Bakery

That was before Uncle Henry came back from the war.
It was?
Yes. Remember, we took the trip across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. All of us…six of us in Dad's Buick.

The first one.
A few years ago? Ocean's Eleven? We saw that one.
No. The one with Frank Sinatra. Frank. He knew how to do it. Those young kids just…

Sit here.
Noooo. I want Mommy to sit here.
But I want to sit next to 
You do?
(furious nodding)

A pause. Quiet envelopes the room. Everyone taking a bite, a sip, a breath.
A couple reads the paper at the circular table in the midst of everything. He in his gray windbreaker; she in her bright yellow slicker. He turns the page with a snap, and it begins again.

Have you been across the new bridge?
Why do they remake the good ones?
Can you believe they are getting along this morning?

Sitting in the corner with my chocolate croissant and vanilla soy latte, I soak it in. The little four year old in me, with the big brown eyes, pulling it all toward me.

When the rain stops, we grab my coffee, his tea and walk outside as the steam lifts the sea and the crocuses and the daffodils and the pavement toward me. I suddenly hear myself, It smells like Spring in South Carolina.

And it does.
And you are here.
I breathe deeply knowing it has happened again.
The eve of Spring whispers her song,
returning you to me.


Both of these examples show how the poet brings himself/herself into the poem. The observations are interesting in both, but when I read a poem, I want to know why the poet is interested in telling me about these things she sees and hears.

When I was sitting in this intimate cafe with my husband in Gearhart, Oregon, I was so struck by the conversations around us that I started writing notes on the Sunday paper he was reading. Looking back on this moment years later, I think one of the reasons I was so attune to the senses of the moment that happened when we walked outside (when I suddenly missed my grandmother so much I couldn't breathe but yet felt so grateful to Spring for bringing her back to me each year) was because I had been taking those notes with an awareness of everything around me and within me. 

Leaning into our poet selves heals us. (I believe this.)

Go out into the world and listen. And then write a poem. 

week 4: the _____ says

liz lamoreux

flotsam along lake superior

Before I jump into today's lesson and poetry prompt, I want to invite you to take a few deep breaths and just be right here for a few moments. Right now. I'll wait.






This poeming it out stuff can be intense. We have spent our time sifting through some big stuff. In a way, we are sifting through the flotsam that all that came before this moment leaves behind. Maybe you have unearthed some stories you had almost forgotten. Maybe you have finally begun to tell a story that has been literally festering inside you. Maybe you're still not putting pen to paper because you just want to take it all in...and you are feeling some trepidation. Wherever you are is where you are supposed to be right now. And please remember to practice self-care as you need to. Get outside. Go for a walk. Rest. Let go of poeming for one day. Or write more if that is what you need. Listen to yourself.

Now, let's poem it out today!


video URL: https://vimeo.com/40912684
video password: poeming 

Prompt: A new voice (or perspective)

Today's prompt is to give a voice to something that doesn't usually speak or to let something else speak for you. In this case, I'm talking about a thing that might be alive or might not be (a bird or a shoe and so on). I want to challenge you to let go of a person speaking in your poem and instead to let something else do the talking. 

You could look at this prompt as getting the perspective of the things around you in your corner of the world. What does your desk say? If your driveway could tell stories of all that it has seen, what would it say? How about your front porch? Or the front porch of your grandparents' home? What does the stoplight say? The maple tree? The humpback whale you saw in Maui or in a dream? If you are stuck, consider looking at one of your word lists and finding a few words to inspire you.

In the video, I share three different poems to inspire you with this prompt. Two are by Mary Oliver:
"When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention" (which you can read here) and "When I am Among the Trees" (which you can read here). Both of her poems are from Thirst: Poems. And then I dare to read one of my own poems right there with hers. My poem is called "The seed says" and you can find it in Five Days in April. These poems illustrate a couple of jumping off points for you with this prompt. You could begin with "The _____ says" as your first line or title. Or you could weave in the voice throughout your poem. 

Remember to try to put yourself in the poem somewhere. (Only if you want to of course.)

Above all, have fun! This poem could be silly or grandeous (what does the redwood say?). It could be about an actual experience where you encountered a moose and stared it down and you thought it said something. It could be an imagined experience. It could be quiet and just a few lines. 

Happy poeming!

week 4: getting out of the digsite (and noticing)

liz lamoreux

Today, I want to begin with a poem by my friend Jennifer Horsman. Please consider reading it aloud as an invocation of sorts to our Week 4 as it beautifully and honestly sets the tone for what we will be exploring this week. 

by Jennifer Horsman

For so long you believed you were lost,

little did you know 

the chimneyed possibilities

beneath your battered torments.

Sometimes it takes the stillness 

of bare feet in the fogbound grass,

the sensation of the small of your back

pressed against the trunk of a coastal pine,

or the purpling rhododendron

to fully acknowledge

what is true:

you were only dismantling

the fraudulent symmetry 

of the ordinary and expected

to hear the jangled arias

of your own composure.


video URL: https://vimeo.com/40831259
video password: poeming 

In the video, I share the following poems: "Messenger" by Mary Oliver from the collection in Thirst: Poems, the poem "Abloom" by me, and an excerpt from "For a Girl Becoming" by Joy Harjo that is found in the collection Poetry Speaks Who I Am.

Prompt: What do you need to tell yourself after stepping out of your dig site?

As I mention in the video, you might write a blessing, you might write a poem about who you are in this moment, you might write about the younger you whose story you excavated last week and then write about the you today who holds that little girl within her.

Consider the different voices you might write from with this poem: first person (using “I”), second person (using “you”), and third person (using “she).

Let your poem be a bridge to healing today as you hop out of last week’s dig site and dangle your feet as you sit on the edge and breathe deeply, soaking in all that you know.

week 3: digging deeper

liz lamoreux

We're digging even deeper today with a conversation about the things we have lost. I believe that when we sift through the grief and “stuff” that life hands us (and recognize that it might be taking up too much space inside us), we create space to more deeply live with awareness in our lives. We create space for light and joy. Writing poetry helps me sift through the grief and create more space for living deeply. Reading poetry pushes me to think about my own stories.

Today’s video goes into more about this idea of sifting to create space and using poetry as our guide. I share a few of my own stories and am trusting that they are the ones to share today…


video URL: https://vimeo.com/40558925
video password: poeming 


Notes from the video:

I mentioned this blog post by Kate Inglis.

I read the following poems: "Food. Music. Memory." by Susan Marie Scavo and a poem that is untitled by Donna Lee. They can both be found in the poetry collection What Have You Lost? edited by Naomi Shihab Nye. I also read my own poem called "I cannot apologize."

You can hear Sharon Olds’ read her poem "Mairsy Dosey" here.


Prompt: What do you need to sift through today?

Here are two ideas for working with today’s prompt:

1) Put pen to paper for 5-10 minutes and just write. Write everything and anything that you need today. Consider sifting through your thoughts and feelings surrounding this theme of “excavating the past” that we're looking at this week. Write a list of stories you need to/want to tell that have surfaced for you. Pick one of the prompts we've looked at in the course and write a letter to that prompt. Write a letter to someone you have lost. Just write.

2) If you are feeling more like you want to “poem,” you could begin with the question “What have you lost?” and go from there. Or give yourself some space to breathe deeply and think about what you really feel pulled to write about and put pen to paper and poem it out!

week 3: the story of home begins

liz lamoreux

URL: https://vimeo.com/40488274
password: poeming 

"The story of home begins" is a phrase that came to me as I was brainstorming prompts I wanted to include in this course. I started to imagine writing on every page of a small notebook with this as my prompt. If I did this today, some of these pages would say:

The story of home begins with a pink blanket fraying at the edges, her scared face searching mine, his big hands, the house up on the hill and "what did we get ourselves into?" and six weeks of crying.

The story of home begins with lily of the valley and Pond's cold cream and a jewelry box I could peek inside when she wasn't looking and jumping on the bed and waiting up for him and "I would have to remind you how to behave when you got home."

The story of home begins with "we will do the best we can" and sometimes we will fail but we will love love love.

This story of home could be specific and describe every detail of a childhood room or it could be general and describe what home means to you. The story could be about a home of many years ago (or even centuries) but it could also mean the home of today. It could be something vast like a country or something much smaller, like a kitchen table, as I share in the first two poems I read today. It could be real or imagined. Follow the threads of thoughts that come up and see where they take you.

In the video today, I share five poems:

"Mediation" by Kim Stafford, which is in the collection Poetry Speaks Who I Am. His book Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford is one of my favorites. Find out more about him and his writing and teaching at his website

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo (also in Poetry Speaks), which you can read at Poetry Foundation

"Growth" by Philip Levine from the collection in What Work Is. (I could not find a copyright free link to this poem.)

Excerpts from "Prairie" by Carl Sandburg as found in Harvest Poems: 1910-1960 (this collection only includes excerpts from this long poem). The whole poem can be found here. And I read his short poem "Fog." (How I love that poem!)


Prompt: The story of home begins

In the video I encourage you to let Carl Sandburg guide you today with his openings and lists and his "ode" of sorts to the prairie as he speaks right to her:

I was born
The [....] sings to me...
I am...
They are mine... 

If you do write a poem directly inspired by Sandburg, be sure to credit him under the title of your poem (after Carl Sandburg) or (Inspired by Carl Sandburg's poem "Prairie") especially if you share your poem publicly.

Again, remember to take you poetry/word toolbox with you as you write today. Make lists as you need to; gather more words. Give your poem a sense of place. Breathe deeply. Have fun.

week 3: getting into your digsite

liz lamoreux

video URL: https://vimeo.com/100268997
video password: poeming 

This week, we travel into the past and unearth a few stories and memories. This post is full and the video is long (about 20 minutes), so you should really settle in with a cup of tea and your notebook. Feel free to pause the video and come back. Move through it at your pace.

In the video, I invite you to add the senses to your "poetry toolbox" this week and to see them (including the sixth sense of "knowing") as a tool for grounding yourself in this moment as you dig into the past. They can also be a powerful ally in accessing memories and setting the scene. (So when in doubt, rely on your senses this week.)

Additionally, I invite you to think about looking for the poems that give voice to similar stories or experiences you want to investigate or write about. You can think of this as your poetry creative adventure this week!

I share the following poems and poets in the video:

John O'Donohue's book To Bless the Space Between Us, and I read the blessing, "For the Traveler." You can find out more about John O'Dononue here.

Sharon Olds' poem "I Go Back to May 1937," and you can read it here. I really honor the way Sharon Olds gets right to the realness of things in her poetry. It is gritty and honest and helps me to be more honest in my own writing.

Marge Piercy's poem "The Day My Mother Died," which you can read here and find in Colors Passing Through Us.  

Prompt: A day that changed everything

Today's prompt is to write about a day that changed everything. The story of this day could be big, something that shifted everything in your world. And it could be much more subtle and be about how one quiet choice realigned you in a way that changed you. Remember to gather your words, your questions and observations (and you could use that tool to first write notes/observations about this day), and your senses to help you as you write.

Another way to work with the prompt today would be to let go of focusing on one day, and instead create a timeline of sorts (starting with today and moving backward in the way that makes sense to you). You might make a literal list that begins: Today... Last week... In April of 2009... In the Spring of 1978... Or you might be even more specific. Have fun with it and look for clues that could lead you to a poem. Perhaps your list will become a poem. 

week 2: dance it out, poem it out

liz lamoreux

So far in Poem It Out, we have indeed been poeming, but today I'm inviting you to poem out whatever you need to get out of you. And I mean the big stuff. That stuff that causes our minds to turn and turn or our hearts to feel heavy or our shoulders to hunch a bit too close to our ears. Today, let's use poetry to get whatever we need to onto paper to create more space inside us. In today's video and words below, I give you some ideas and prompts to help you begin to create this space.

Prompt: Dance it out. Poem it out.



video URL: https://vimeo.com/40122965
video password: poeming 

In the video, I explain a bit about why I called this workshop Poem It Out and how it relates to dancing it out and singing it out for me. 

When you get ready to poem out whatever you need to today, one idea would be to first put on some music and dance just a bit to get into your body and out of your head. Another idea would be to simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths and notice your toes then your legs then your hips and all the way up through your body until you reach the top of your head. Then before you start writing, find your feet again and make sure you can feel all your toes on the floor to really ground your body.

In the video, I give you a few prompt ideas to help you begin. These could be possible first lines, titles, phrases that appear in your poem, or perhaps they will just give you a jumping off point:

The story I am not telling is…
I meant to say
I’m thirsty for... (inspired by the excerpt from “Breath” by David Williams in the photo of the welcome post)
My heart hungers for...
My body needs...
What you don’t see
Or go back to the senses

A gentle reminder: Please continue to move at your pace in this class. You can choose which prompts speak to you and let go of those that don't. You can ignore the prompts and just do your thing (whatever that is). This is a pressure-free zone. But still be sure to put pen to paper for a few minutes today.

week 2: inspired by one word

liz lamoreux

Let's keep putting pen to paper this week and poem it out.


video URL: https://vimeo.com/40046236
video password: poeming

Prompt: Use one of your gathered words as a title and get to poeming

Today, let's just get right to it and write a poem. In the video, I explain the idea of starting with a title (using just one word as that title) and writing the poem from there. Use the word list you've created, the one I gave you, or maybe even just open the dictionary and see what you find.

I also read Mary Oliver's poem "Ocean" from Red Bird and Billy Collins' poem "Morning" from his collection Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. You can hear Billy Collins read his poem (and read it yourself) over at Poetry Foundation. You can read Mary Oliver's poem here.


week 1: let's poem

liz lamoreux

It's time to get to the "Poeming It Out" part of this week's adventure, and below you will find a video that contains your first poetry prompt. 

First, I want to share a bit about why I love prompts and address a question someone asked in a session of Poem It Out when she wondered if her "notes" could be considered a poem. 

I have "a thing" for prompts. I like how they give us a place to begin when we face the blank page or canvas. Somehow it takes the mystery out of creating for me in a way that supports me to "do" instead of getting caught up in thinking that "I don't know what I am doing." Often a prompt takes me to unexpected places and pushes me to see the topic I am writing about from angles that I hadn't noticed before.

When in a painting workshop, prompts loosen me up because painting isn't my most comfortable creative medium. When a painting workshop teacher uses prompts to get us started on a piece, I'm amazed at how even though I might fall in love with the background, I often end up covering up most of my initial "moves" (especially true in mixed-media painting classes) while finding something better along the way. 

I find that the same is true with my students and writing/poetry prompts. They start with a similar phrasing or word that gives them a place to begin and the first few lines might be all about that prompt, but they each take it in different directions and sometimes end up editing out much of what was connected to the prompt. Or they hear the prompt and that causes them to come up with an even better idea and they do their own thing.

I always want you to remember: When it comes to "poeming it out" (or writing it out as the case may be), there really aren't any rules.

At least there aren't any rules here...so you should always feel free to run with the prompts I give you in any way that you want to. If you end up writing a short story instead of a poem, AWESOME! If you have dabbled in haiku and want to just write haiku throughout this entire course, that will be perfect!

If you end up just writing lists and lists in response to the exercises, you are still poeming it out

And here is the part where I tell you that I think anyone can write poetry.

And that if you say what you are writing is a poem, then it is. Because we are letting go of rules in this class, this means we are letting go of defining what a poem is. At the same time, this doesn't mean that I think anyone can become a Poet Laureate or that every person who writes a poem should expect to publish it. However, for our purposes, we are going create space around this fear of "is it a poem?" (and try to put it to the side for this class) and give ourselves room to write because we want to...because we need to. 

My hope is that by letting go of worrying if what you are writing is a poem, you will just get words onto the page. When you do this, you let those words and stories out of your head and gut, and you begin to let in more light. And light is where the joy and the healing and the beauty are found. (Yes.)

So today, let's poem it out!

Prompt: Look over your observations and questions from yesterday's prompt, choose something that interests you, and find your way to a poem


video URL: https://vimeo.com/46643564
video password: poeming

In the video, I encourage you to take your observations and start writing about them with the belief that you will find your way to a poem or the beginnings of one. I also explain the idea of "poem notes" in case that phrasing appeals to you.

And here are a few possible opening phrases in case you would like another prompt to help you begin today:


  • Today, I
  • I want to remember
  • Observations on [insert date, time] 
  • Write one of your questions as the opening line
  • Observations of my eight-year-old self (or 5 or 10 or 25 and so on) 


Additionally, I would like to share four poems with you to inspire your writing today.

The first is a poem by Kay Ryan called "Expectations." This poem feels like she might have been taking notes while out on a walk and later found a poem in these notes. 

The second is "Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins. Follow the link and you can also hear him read this poem and share a bit about it. In fact, don't do anything else until you follow the link and hear him read it because this poem is so so funny and hearing the audience laugh will encourage you to find humor in your observations and tell the story from this place of noticing the literal absurdities in life. I love this poem.

The third is the poem "Driving toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly. Reading this poem for the first time earlier this year, I couldn't help but wonder if he actually did a variation of the exercise I gave you and stopped three times along his drive and wrote down his observations of that moment.  

The fourth is the following poem note written by me:

Solitude Lost 

I wonder about the moment 
when the fern 
dug in, 
insisting it had found 
its true home 
fifty feet from the earth, 
rooted in the oak.
did the moss feel surprise? 
or did it just sigh, 
knowing the quiet 
was too good to be true?

I wrote this on a day in April a few years ago about two weeks after my grandfather died. The day was warm and I headed out to discover a new state park and found a bench on a cliff overlooking Puget Sound and just wrote about all that I was seeing. About five poems came out of those notes. My intention had been to write about how I was feeling (and I was feeling so darn sad and lonely) but instead all these odd observations about nature came out. And this "question poem" came out of those observations. 

An invitation to share: Because this video was originally created for a group moving through the course together, it includes an invitation to share what you write with the group. Alas, you are moving through the course at your pace, but I want to invite you to feel free to email me your words if you'd like someone to catch your poem today.

Now get to poeming!