National Poetry Month: How I write a poem

In honor of National Poetry Month, WriteGirl mentee Addissyn shared a poem as well as some insight on her creative process.

I am a Woman

by Addissyn, 17

i am neither roses nor daisies nor a perfect little garden
i am rough around the edges, natural, unconventional
i am not to be shown off, not to be painted to your liking
i am a blank canvas for my own creations

i spit words onto the page in unalterable blocks of ink
messy and unbreakable, alive and pushing boundaries
i am not sit-in-the-background, blend-in girl
i am in-your-face, pay-attention-to-me, i-am-going-places girl

i breath the oxygen the trees return to me,
stretching my lungs to be full of knowledge
leaving scars of constellations
across every surface.

How I write a poem

How to write a poem. If you Google this you’ll find a myriad of different steps teaching you how to conform to a rhyme scale or structure, but if you’re looking for something more freeform then you’ve come to the right place! Rhyme and structure are not the only ways in which a poem can take place because poetry requires the writer to first speak to the page in order for the reader to hear what she has to say. Believe in the words and what you have to say and you will write a poem.

I begin every poem by writing the date somewhere on the page. It doesn’t matter where but it fills the page in someway. A blank page is truly terrifying but if I’ve written the date, the page is no longer blank and I can feel as if I’ve already written something.

After the date, I have two favorite ways in which I begin writing a poem:

  1. If I already have an idea, I write down every word, phrase, line, or verse I have in my head about that idea. I bold words that stand out, repeat my favorite lines, or write in a single block text. Whatever I do, I get everything on the page, regardless of the form it takes.

  2. If I have no concrete ideas, then I just write. I don’t skip lines or capitalize or punctuate or ident. I just write. I write a stream of consciousness piece: anything and everything that comes to mind. Or I write an observational piece: what can I see, hear, feel, smell?

When there are words on the page, I take a step back, observe the piece as is. Then I take a deep breath, turn to a new page or open a new Word document, and chop my words to pieces. I don’t delete or erase anything from the original piece, but begin to rearrange, cut, and add words as I see fit. A poem is a collage of words, every word is placed in a specific place for a specific purpose. Without its place and purpose, the word means nothing.

The goal in destroying your initial brainstorm is to find something new, whether it’s a rhythm or repetition or theme or subject or title or form, anything. Every word you put on the page should have been yours so you can do anything you want with them.

Some of my best poems have come from nothing, others from prompts, and others still from a single seed of an idea, but I used the same method for all of them. Write everything and then rearrange it to be something different. It helps me not to become attached to any one line throughout the process of writing because if something is always changing as a writer, you are willing to let it become its best self. And isn’t that what we are looking for? The best form of any poem will be different for every poem, but a poem is a poem as long as the writer calls it so.