- •Discover as much as you can about the poetic craft. Read lots of poetry. Meet other poets. Become part of a poetic community. Get a mentor who will guide you. Attend readings and workshops. Take writing classes.
- •Become as sensitive as you can, both to life and to language. Figure out your personal sense of what is beautiful — both in life and in poetry.
- •Think divergently (that is, keep your mind open and nimble, and be willing to think in different ways and new directions). You never know when, where, or how inspiration will come to you, but you can prepare the way for it.
- •Make time for yourself to write. After all, if you don't write, you're not a writer.
- •Be disciplined. Rewrite your poetry again and again. Don't settle for using clichés or other people's language. The idea is to find out what kind of poetry only you can write.
- Write down a very mundane, straightforward prose statement about the outside world.
You could write about a cut on your hand, a kiss, awkward silences, a cash machine that won't give you any money, the death of a loved one, the lyrics of a song you can't stand but hear all the time, a painful memory you avoid, a car crash, what it feels like to sit at the bottom of a pool and look up, homeless people, Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the last movie you saw, a pet that makes you feel uncomfortable, or a sunset. Write something as simple as, "Sure is a nice sunset."
- Now pay closer attention to the thing you just wrote about.
Write down what you notice. Brainstorm. List as many aspects as you can — for example, "The color of the sunset is red in some places and a flat grayish-blue in others. The sky nearer to the sun is pretty, but farther away some of it is already dark and colorless."
- Concentrate on your subject and come up with a few new ways of presenting or describing the thing your original statement was about.
Try using some metaphors, images, turns of phrase. Don't write down anything you've ever heard or read before. Reject anything that seems familiar or secondhand. Using the sunset as your subject, you could write, "The sunset is like a bruise; it's like spilled stew on a rug; it's a molten core with a hard outer crust."
- Write at least two passages of poetry on this subject, experimenting with different forms.
Choose very different forms (say, two lines that rhyme with each other, or a passage of free verse, which doesn't have any rhyme). Use some of the material you generated under Step 3. For example, two rhyming lines about the sunset could be:
Blood-red, flat grey, the sunset colors fuse,
Spreading and growing dull green, like a bruise
And free verse may be:
The sunset spilled over the rug of the sky seeped into its fabric
A stain spread, a ravishing mess will leave a
mark no way
I can cleanse it from my absorbent brain. It's running down
lava hardening, darkening, losing light. It's nighttime.
- Now rewrite one of the passages in as few words as you can.
Go for maximum meaning and emotion. For example:
Sunset spilled on the rug, stained
the fabric, can't get it out
of my brain. It's lava, hardening