Archive of Articles about Writing

Write a definition poem

“To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one.”

John Ruskin

Reality is subject to interpretation. I have flown from Tucson to Las Vegas at least ten times. When I’ve sat by the window on the left side of the plane, I’ve seen mostly desert scrub and a glimpse of the Colorado River. When I’ve sat on the right side by the window I’ve seen Phoenix, Lake Meade and the Grand Canyon. When I’ve sat on the aisle, I’ve seen people’s heads and harried looking flight attendants. It’s the same journey, but my perspective changes dramatically based only on where I sit.

One of the jobs of a poet is to interpret reality. Every time you write a poem, you are attempting to capture a piece of reality. Even if your poem is an absurdist mix of words or a journey to a fantasy realm, you are asserting that your poem in some way reflects the world around you. Your interpretation may be that the world is completely unreal, but it is still an interpretation.

Your view of reality helps you to create your own poetic “voice”. Your voice is a combination of your writing style, your worldview, and your experiences. Many people start out imitating other poets or styles, but if you write frequently enough, your own voice asserts itself and you become comfortable with the way that you write. It is an important part of the process of becoming a poet.

Today’s Poetry Prompt

Write a definition poem. A definition poem takes a word or a concept and attempts to define it, provide perspective, redefine it, or create a definitive example of it.

Hospital

John Hewitt

A hospital is a white shell on a beach
Bleached bare and lodged in the sand
The ocean washes over it
It sometimes buries it
But a hospital remains unmoved by this
Whatever changes could occur already have
Any color it might have had has washed away
Or been ground into the sand
It shines in the sun but people walk around it
They sense that they should not touch it
They should not pick it up and add it to their collection
There is nothing wrong with a hospital
But it is a shell no one wants to own
They want to leave it