Tina Parker

How A Poem Happens

Date of Post: 
Sunday, September 13, 2015

My previous posts hit on where and when I write. To sum up, those entries stated that I don’t have an office, a studio, or a desk. Nor do I have a regular writing regiment. So given these seemingly dire conditions, how does a poem happen?

There are three crucial things to make a poem—my notebook (specifically allowing it to be a mess), blocks of time to sift through the notebook, and lastly, a bit of mystery.

I don’t expect anything out of the phrases I manage to write in my notebook---at least not right when I write them. I let them be.  I don’t analyze or fret over them. I don’t look back at what I’ve just written. And I continue not to look back for several months—typically three months because that’s how long it takes me to fill up a notebook.

The second crucial ingredient for making a poem is a block of time to sift through the notebook. I take a yellow marker and highlight what stands out. This takes some time as there’s a lot of junk to sift through—sometimes it’s tough to read. It can sound very pathetic. I highlight maybe one phrase out of ten pages.

I then use a legal pad or the computer to take the snippets I’ve highlighted and blend them together, or say more about them. This requires a good deal of pausing and sitting and staring. I’m sure it appears as though I’m doing nothing. Sometimes I doze off. But I’m getting in the zone. I no longer notice time. I start to hear the words in my head—I am receiving—I hear them again and start to feel the rhythm they make.

Herein lies the third crucial element—this mysterious space that opens if I allow myself to spend time with my words, to be quiet and listen. It’s a magical place I would love