Tips By Mary Jaksch Recently, I re-read a little book I created some years ago.It’s a book of poems.I collected my poems and then ‘published’ them in a book I handcrafted myself.It made a special gift for my loved ones.I’m not what people call ‘a poet,’ but I do tend to write poems now and then. Especially at key moments of my life.The poems I created some years ago trigger memories, emotions and sentiments.They are like condensed journal entries.Do you write poems?Not? Well, maybe you should.Writing a poem means paring down your experience to just a few words or phrases.This is great training for whatever else you write. I know that my own writing has been shaped and improved by writing poems.When you write a poem, the challenge is to capture a moment, a feeling or a fleeting thought. Here is one of my poems that invokes a moment when my son, Sebastian, went to visit his new-born half-sister.Little Red CarHe waved to meAs he got onto the planeLifting his skateboard highIn his luggageThe little red carFor his new sister.At the big old houseHe used to play with itIn his room halfway up the landing,Pushing it over the blue vinylWith gold flecksHe was little thenAnd liked to crawl into my bedAt night.When I pushed him out of my bodyAnd gathered him to my heartAll wet and tinyNo one told meHe would become a manThe very next day.Some simple suggestions on how to write a poemFirst of all, it’s important to let go of any ideas of writing a ‘good’ poem. Your poems are memories frozen in time. They don’t need to be important to anyone else.Here are a few pointers that make writing poems enjoyable:Focus on a particular momentPoems work best if you focus on a moment that expresses an emotion or is a metaphor for an idea.Such moments occur every day. We just need to notice them.Imagine you see a cicada shell on the ground. At that moment you might remember that cicadas emerge from years in the ground – and then only live and sing for a couple of weeks. Here is what Zen poet Basho made of such a moment:Shell of a cicadaIt sang itself awaycompletelyThe more details you use, the more vivid your poem will be. Sensory details help your readers to identify emotionally with your poem.Here are some questions to elicit sensory details:If your poem is set in a location, what do you see?What colors are there?What do you hear?What do you taste or smell?If a person is the focus of your poem, what details are telling?What do they look like?What do they say?What do they see?Here is a short poem with rich details by William Carlos WilliamsThis Is Just To SayI have eatenthe plumsthat were inthe iceboxand whichyou were probablysavingfor breakfastForgive methey were deliciousso sweetand so coldThe fun of found poemsA found poem uses words from non-poetic contexts and turns them into poetry. It’s like a collage. You can find scraps of sentences in your everyday life and put them together to make a poem.Here is where you can find material for your language collage:instruction booksrecipesscraps of conversationshoroscopestextbooksdictionariesgraffitiphone messages, notes you’ve written to yourselfshopping listsbillboardsHere are two examples of found poems. The first one is by William Whewell who found the following poem in a treatise of mechanics: An Elementary Treatise on MechanicsHence no force,however great,can stretch a cord,however fine, into a horizontal linewhich is accurately straight.The poet Hart Seely found poetry in the speeches and news briefings of Donald Rumsfeld. Here is one of his tongue-in-cheek poems: Unknown As we know,There are known knowns.There are things we know we know.We also knowThere are known unknowns.That is to sayWe know there are some thingsWe do not know.But there are also unknown unknowns,The ones we don’t knowWe don’t know.If you want to create a ‘found poem,’ make sure you carry a notebook around with you. Jot down any interesting bits of language you find. You’ll find that your ordinary life turns into a treasure hunt! Editing: the crucial phaseThe most important part of writing a poem is to pare it down to the essential. When you edit your poem, you need to test every word to see if it can be left out.If you are lucky, you might end up with just a few words.Here is a celebrated poem by William Carlos Williams where most of the content is pared away, and only a few poignant words remain:The Red Wheelbarrowso much depends upona red wheel barrowglazed with rain waterbeside the white chickens. What about you?Do you write poems? If so, please share your poem so we can all enjoy it.Or maybe you have a favorite poem someone else wrote?Please share your poems and thoughts in the comment section.