Poetry in motion

I think I’ve just realised what it is that starts me off on a poem – they don’t warn you about it in school. It’s when something you’ve seen or heard switches on a part of your brain that simply can’t be turned off until it’s ‘let out’, worked on, and set down in black and white. While dictionaries and suchlike can be summoned to help, it’s always a real relief when the thing’s finished and the brain is ‘free’ again.


If you’ve noticed something odd, or heard a really rhythmic phrase,
And it’s bounced around inside your head for days and days and days,
The only way to stop yourself from going mad, or worse,
Is to sit at your computer screen and turn it into verse.
That demon in your brainbox, as it rattles round and round,
Is playing with alternatives and juggling what it’s found,
And it’s looking at the matter first from this way, then from that,
And it’s trying hard to rhyme things, so it’s changing ‘tit’ for ‘tat’.

Yet the funny thing with poems is, they almost write themselves,
Helped along by three fat volumes that sit up there on the shelves.
They’re battered and they’re tattered, and they’re all well past their prime:
A dictionary, thesaurus, and a book of words that rhyme.
Almost all the words you’ll ever need are listed in these tomes:
There’s nouns and verbs and adjectives, all looking for good homes;
Conjunctions, prepositions (oh, and adverbs – what are they?),
Waiting quietly to discover if today’s their lucky day.

You can’t stop the fiendish creature that’s infested your grey cells,
So wait until it settles down and see if something jells;
Then jot it down, and change it round, take down your books of reference,
Adjust the metre, tweak the rhymes until they’re to your preference.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to a well-deserved surprise:
The beginnings of a poem will appear before your eyes.
Then all you do is nurture it, develop it and tend it,
And give the thing a title. Oh, and find a way to end it . . .

[Image: Purdue University Department of Chemistry]
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