Between the Lines

Kathy Steffen

Good things are coming: the first day of spring, life returning to semi-normal as more people get vaccinated, and next month — April — is poetry month! Voice of the River Valley will print poems submitted by YOU, the readers! Not sure how to write poetry? “Between the Lines” April 2020 gave an overview for writing poetry, and you can find it on the Voice website under Issue Archive. Also in that issue are reader’s poems from last year. Read them and get inspired! 

Use the library or Internet and research haiku, limerick, narrative poetry (it tells a story) or lyrical (similar to a song where you are in a specific point of view). Or try free verse (no rules — anything goes!). There are many forms of poetry. Search and choose one that grabs you, warm up your hands and write!

Poet Billy Collins (he doodles along with jots of poem ideas in his journal, a method I suggest you try — it’s fun!) says poems have two subjects. First, the one that begins the poem, then the subject that emerges throughout the writing of the poem. His advice is to just start writing. Write about where you are, what you see, or what you are thinking. Allow your mind to wander and let your poetry go where it wants. Let your poetry surprise you!

Still not sure where to start? Here are some prompts from daily life: Where are you? What surrounds you? What do you see out the window? Write about a winter evening. A winter day. Take a walk. Start a poem with a street name and continue with what surrounds you. Take a drive and glance in the rearview mirror. Write about it. Go to Instagram or Facebook and write a poem about the first photo you see. (Warning! Set a timer for five minutes then log off.) Can’t sleep? Write about what keeps you up at night. What happens just before you fall asleep? Write about dawn. What did you dream before you woke up? Include smells and colors. Write about dusk. Have you ever been stuck in traffic? What about walking to the mailbox? Going to the grocery store? Post office? Standing in line?

Prompts from big events: Your first day of school. The first time you attended a funeral. What about the last time? The day your child was born. Have you ever been fired from or quit a job? What about your wedding? Your best vacation ever. Write a sonnet to the person you love.

Prompts from current events: Write about a political event that made you angry. Brought you joy. Hope. Despair. Take each of the prompts from “daily life” and add, “during COVID.” Compare your two poems. Combine them.

Prompts from your imagination: You are from another planet. What is different (better/worse?) than earth? You are a circus performer. You are an athlete. Movie star. Dog. Dancer. Shop clerk. What is your life like? What do you experience?

There is no right or wrong to writing poetry. So, write, explore, write some more and submit your poems to info@voiceoftherivervalley.com for next month’s celebration of National Poetry Month. And write on!

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She is grateful to write from her home in Spring Green that she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.