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Poem It Out Classroom

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!