Meditate and then write a poem

Poetic Voice

As you can see from the previous topics, there are many poetic styles to choose from. We have already covered poetry of place, personal poetry, issues oriented poetry and persona poetry. These are all unique approaches to poetry. They have nothing to do with meter, diction, rhythm or form. Once you combine all of those poetic concepts, you can see that there are many diverse approaches to the writing of poetry. Some people write well using very specific styles while others jump from style to style easily.

Poetic voice is something that exists outside of all of these concepts. Poetic voice is, quite literally and broadly the way that you write. It is your choice of words, the order of your words, the length of your sentences, the length of your poems, your use of description, your choice of subjects, your attitude and everything else that goes into the writing of a poem. While any of these aspects of your writing can change from one poem to the next, general patters will emerge over time. It is sort of like the difference between climate and weather. Weather can change daily or even hourly, but the climate rarely changes. It is the guiding force behind the weather.

Developing your poetic voice is a process that continues as long as you write poetry, but in general your voice will become more specific and pronounced over time. When people first start to write poetry, they tend to mimic the poets (or even musicians) they have heard in the past. They have an idea of what poetry should sound like, and they try to force their natural voice into the styles they imagine. As writers grow more comfortable with their writing, their own unique voice comes to the forefront. This doesn’t mean that they put all of their past influences aside, it merely means that those influences serve less as a conscious guide and more as a subconscious inspiration.

It is only natural, even for an experienced poet, to adapt aspects of a new poet or style that they find interesting or inspiring, just as they may react against a style or poet that they find distasteful. As a poet grows more confident in their voice, those influences will have less and less impact.

So, how do you develop your poetic voice? You write. You write and write and write. You also read other poets, not to copy their style but to learn from them. As you continue to write and to read, you will keep the influences you like and discard the ones you don’t, all as a natural part of your development. You will also find that your voice will begin to win out.

Other things to remember:

  • Listen to the way you speak.
  • Don’t try to write in a style that is dramatically different from the way you speak.
  • Don’t use words in your poetry that you wouldn’t use in conversation.
  • Incorporate influences from other media such as television, movies, news, talk radio, fiction, non-fiction, music and the people around you.
  • The greater the number of influences you have, the less dominant any one influence will be.
  • Accept that you don’t have to sound like other writers to be successful. Your own voice and experience will be better than anything you try to simulate.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Take at least five minutes to meditate in a quite room free of outside influences before you write today’s poem. Try to clear your head of stray thoughts. Once you feel like you are clear and calm, write your poem. Let the topic be about whatever comes to mind after your meditation. If you have never meditated before, simply sit in a chair with your eyes closed and try to relax.

Today’s Recommended Poet

Leslie Adrienne Miller deftly combines three of the writing styles we have been discussing. She writes poems from a deeply personal place, but uses that to address wider issues, and she incorporates her travels into her writing, giving her poems a distinct sense of place. She also incorporates today’s concept, the persona poem, as she stretches to capture other women’s lives (and deaths). I highly recommend The Resurrection Trade. It is one of the most accomplished books of poetry I have read in recent years.

Books by Leslie Adrienne Miller

The Resurrection Trade 2007

Eat Quite Everything You See 2002

Ungodliness 1994

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  1. At the Orchard

    We usually pack a picnic

    I thought
    I could sit at a table alone
    and think

    Cool breeze
    pastoral solitude
    fertile, fruit-bearing trees on both sides

    Groves as far as the eye can see
    bleeding into purple mountains
    toe-ringed with sunflowers

    My over-busy brain
    couldn’t help but give in
    to meditative peace
    in such a place
    in such a perfect circumstance

    But the moment existed
    only as a preconceived notion
    of how the day would go

    I slid in thick slick mud
    upon arrival
    coated on half my body
    from leg to hip

    Then both hands and arms
    in the efforts to right myself

    Mud dried and cracked
    almost immediately
    on this unseasonable hot day

    Apples
    rotting on the ground
    their vinegar smell stinging
    acrid in my nostrils

    Peace
    does not smell like this

    But the mountains
    and the sunflowers
    are there as I imagined

    I take one deep breath –
    a mini meditation

    Raise the camera with
    mud-cracking hands

    capture the image
    for future reflections

    Perhaps next time
    I can get closer

  2. Habitual

    I spend a lot of time thinking about stopping
    Stop watching TV
    Stop using Facebook
    Stop eating bread
    Stop picking my nose
    Stop sighing in exasperation
    Every time my wife wants something
    I think about stopping every habit I have
    But the machine keep lurching forward
    Bad habits die hard
    And rise as hungry zombies
    Good habits are oragami elephants
    Hard to create
    Vulnerable to the slightest wind
    My brain picks picks picks at them
    It can’t stop
    And now my nose is bleeding

  3. Sheeps Meadow

    From the tangled
    tumble of sheets
    and wanton wilding
    thoughts
    jangling
    cacophy killing
    morning
    meditation
    comes unbidden
    the sheep
    in the distance
    roaming slowly
    small white figures
    in emerald fields
    roaming slowly
    in shafted sunlight
    slowly roaming in
    emerald fielded
    peace

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