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inspiration for your poems

From the Sierra Poetry Festival

A must do if you are a poet

Next festival is April 18, 2020

Festival/workshop/speakers/ more books to buy!

I am a fan of conferences and festivals in general, and I was so inspired by the third annual Sierra Poetry Festival  I wanted to write down what I learned and share three of the inspirational workshops with you.  This is the first one.

Matthew Zapruder – Poet and author of Why Poetry that of course, I purchased because I cannot resist books.   

Matthew’s talk focused on how to gather material and inspiration for a poem or for a journal entry or for a novel or for just about any creative endeavor.  That’s what I love about poetry, it’s creative in the pure form. Just looking at it and pursuing it is a valuable way to enhance your own creative project.

He composes his poems on a typewriter because writing a poem using a computer makes it too easy to delete words.  He said that if he types the wrong word on a typewriter, he still must keep it.

Like the haunt of a bad thought.

Matthew’s workshop focused on the process of poetry creation, which was not rooted in creation, but rooted in discovery.  Here is the poet’s purpose according to Matthew:  

The Poet has wings

The goal of a poem and being a poet is to jump into the unknown –   somewhere that is not here

Concentration comes from ritual

He quoted a number of poets and philosophers, his favorite about the role of a poet is by Freud – “Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.”

Because poets are drawn to the edge of things.

Once we rattled off the inspirational list, he returned to the work of discovery.  How to get from inspiration to finished poem.  What is in the middle?    The flight, the journey, the gathering.  If our poems are discoveries, how do we go about discovering?

Here are his ideas:

Exercise One – Ten Good Lines in Ten Days

Step I

Select a time of day with minutes of uninterrupted time.

Write the time on a journal, like 2:35 PM

At 2:35 PM, for about five minutes, jot down ten lines. Bad lines, good lines, crappy lines. Doesn’t matter, the exercise is about finding ten lines and recording them.  This is very familiar to those of us already writing for ten minutes every morning or handwriting our three morning pages.

This is just another twist.    

Write down ten lines every day for ten days.  

Step II

Highlight the best line from each day = ten lines.

Take a couple hours to retype or rewrite those best lines, verbatim.  

šStep III

Write a poem using only those ten lines.  Only edit after the ten lines are recorded.

Voila, either a found poem, or something you can explore and improve.

Exercise 2 – The Poem Machine

X as a poem Machine  with X =  Library,  Store, Museum, Bookstore

Create instructions for the poem machine:  Let’s take The Museum as our example.

Here are possible instructions (by me, not the speaker):  

Write down the first comment you hear in the gallery

Record the first picture title

Copy the first warning sign you see

Find a line from a book in the gift store

Find a dictionary meaning

Choose a line of copy from the curator’s notes

Write a sentence overheard in the restroom line (easier if you are female, apparently men do not talk in the restroom).

Travel to the museum and follow your own instructions.  That is the factory.

Return smarter and with the start of a new poem.

I liked the idea of poems as discoveries.  Picking up bits and pieces like stones and shells on the beach, gathering.  Then lay them all out on the beach house dining table making patterns – building a story using found objects.

Try it yourself and post it to my facebook page What’s Your Story?


Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach and author. She has published over 300 newspaper and magazine articles in publications like Modern Maturity (AARP), SF Chronicle and Santa Rosa Magazine. She was a contributor to two Chicken Soup Books and has published anthologies of her work, non-fiction works and novels. Her work has also appeared in a number of poetry and fiction anthologies. She has experimented with the self-publishing world since 2001. She has published and self-published seven books through companies like Author House, author assist companies like 3L Publishing and through traditional publishers like Write Life. Her poetry collection, Ammonia Sunrise, will be released in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press and her mystery novel, In Good Faith will be released by Write Life in 2011. Catharine holds a BA in English from UCSB and a MA in English from Sonoma State University. She is a 25 year member of California Writer’s Club. She is an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix. She works with authors of both fiction and non-fiction to make their dream of producing a book come true. For more information on that, visit her at Catharine has lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and considers wine a food group. She is married to an adorable and very patient man who complains he’s never featured in any of her books. Her grown children who are featured in a few of her books have fled the county.

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