Workin’ On Poems

Next week marks the first week of Memoir Writing 101 at the Bixby Library. That means I won’t be leading the workshop for at least eight weeks, but don’t worry! I’ll still be posting some guidance and inspiration for writers at the usual time each week. I envision more time for my writing, and we will see if that comes to fruition.


I’ve been looking through the Signature Writer’s Guide to Poetry, co-sponsored by Knopf Poetry, over the last few days. It’s a nice little guide, and nearly every excerpt or essay has an idea worth considering. Reading the first essay, from Susan Woolridge, whose book poemcrazy has been inspiration for many prompts the last few weeks, I discovered a nugget of help for all of us.

Susan describes her mindset at the origin of her journalling. Her thirteen year old self did not worry about what label to attach to her words on the page–“prose or fiction or nonfiction or poetry”–and we could all benefit from incorporating that attitude into our work. Preconceived notions about the proper or desired form often inhibits the arrival of a piece of writing. Let the words flow and use revision to shape the writing into prose, poetry, or whatever.


This week’s prompt is a short X-page. Begin by playing some music, while sitting at your desk or table. Open your notebook and listen to the music, draw a slow spiral on your page, keeping the lines as close together as you can, and relax your body. Think back to your early days. After a few minutes, write the first ten memories that come to you from the word “fox.” The memories don’t need to have a fox in them, but they can.

Once your list is complete, choose one that’s interesting or full of conflict. Set your timer for five minutes, and mark an “X” across the next blank page in your notebook from corner to corner. (This way you don’t have to be perfect with your writing, you can let the words flow freely.) Write the memory at the top of the page, and write the story of what happened, beginning to end, in five minutes. The time limit means you will not be able to include every detail. You will need to be selective about what to include.

Good luck!