poetry teaching resources, writer's group resources

Waking the Poet: Cures for Writer’s Block


Laity Lodge Water

This past weekend, I spent time with Julia Kasdorf. She was teaching a poetry seminar at the Laity Lodge Writer’s Retreat.

She began the session by having us introduce ourselves. One poet responded by saying that poetry is the thing he can’t stop writing. I followed by saying poetry is the thing I can (and have) stopped writing.

During the break time, Julia told me she was saddened by my intro. She didn’t mean to pressure me by sharing this, she said; it was just how she felt. I didn’t feel pressured by her reaction—just, somehow, loved by this new person standing before me.

I don’t know if Julia modified her second day’s presentation for me (it seems presumptuous to think so, yet possible). I do know that many of the images she used to speak of poetry-thin times seemed to grow directly out of our previous day’s conversation. I felt loved all over again as she spoke of winter images and something called “desire lines” (the paths that both humans and animals cut across landscapes, often circumventing manmade paths). In winter, she noted, you can see the snow-laden desire lines of the deer, crisscrossing the mountains.

After this, she shared a few ideas for how to meet such word-winter days. “If you can’t write anymore,” she said, “lower your standards.” My heart opened the tiniest bit. I can do that, I thought.

“Write a poem every day for a week,” she added. “Or just write a poem every day, as part of your regular practice, and don’t expect it to be good.” Lastly, she suggested, “make your own beauty” and “use triggers.”

Then she offered a simple trigger. A white bowl of fortunes. Mine said, “Flee like a bird to your mountain.”

And that was it. Julia wakened me. I put the slim fortune on the ecru leather couch. I borrowed some of her spoken words (if you write without ceasing; fragments of Psalms; refuse that fortune), and I wrote six tentative poems. I don’t know if I’ll write anymore anytime soon, but here are two I composed near an open window above the Frio River…


If you write without ceasing,
you will find fragments of Psalms
on the body, in the hair,
in the brown eyes
imprinted with desire lines.
The lines will take you where you want to go
on the body, in the hair,
in the brown eyes
that blink like beaded pearls,
bird-eye pearls
strung along the body
of a hair-tangled


If you would lower
your standards,
eat fragments of Psalms,
not require the apertif,
the blackberry on the ridge
of a pastry,
pork pulled in trails
across plates.
If you could
be content with knowing
that an empty glass
is an invitation
to make your own beauty,
you could stop refusing
your fortune.

Random Acts of Poetry Prompt

Make a bowl of fortunes to use as triggers. You can copy phrases from another poet’s work or perhaps from songs, to make your fortunes. If you get really inspired, you could try a fortune a day for three or four days. Post your favorite on our T. S. Poetry Press Facebook Wall by Wednesday, October 12, for links and possible feature here at Tweetspeak or Every Day Poems. Sitting near an open window is optional. ☺

Post by L.L. Barkat. Visit L.L. at Seedlings in Stone, for more on writing, poetry, art and life.

Subscribe to Every Day Poems— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In October we’re exploring the question “Why Poetry?”

Every Day Poems

Your Comments

20 Comments so far

  1. I keep a book of triggers :) Just small enough to fit in purse or pocket, in which i allow myself to be messy and scribble a little, and come back to later for quotes, snippets of overheard conversations, phrases that catch me.

  2. L. L. Barkat says:

    Stephanie, sounds like a good idea. Maybe I’ll have to get a little secret book. :)

  3. I haven’t participated in these challenges before, but this one is calling me. Are there rules?

  4. L. L. Barkat says:

    Marilyn, it would be lovely to have you participate. Are you looking for any particular kinds of rules? :)

  5. I’m in tears again. Is it possible I have some left? Those desire lines and the winter trees, leafless for a season but going deeper…and the peaches for the eating. I am full. So full.

  6. L. L. Barkat says:

    Sandra, you are such a sweetheart. :) I forgot about the peaches. Did you write of them?

  7. They weren’t in my fortune that morning. But I may. :)

  8. I’m so happy to hear that your fortune yielded poems! Mine yielded prose, but I’m excited to play with it more.

    Lovely image of Blue Hole!

  9. L. L. Barkat says:

    Megan, I hope we’ll get some snippets of that prose somewhere :) (Oops, the image of Blue Hole isn’t mine; it’s a standard from the Foundation. Not sure who to credit for it! :)

  10. I like the idea of ‘borrowing’ words or phrases from other poets. I’ve occasionally taken inspiration from phrases that caught my ear, especially from songs.

    I also find inspiration in pictures. I even have a weekly feature on my photo blog to inspire people to create. You can check it out here: Bifocal Univision

  11. Marilyn says:

    :-) No, L.L., I’m not looking for rules. I just wondered if we are writing according to any kind of pattern or rhythm this time around.

  12. L. L. Barkat says:

    Eric, I might try doing this with songs. If I find a little time and energy.

    Marilyn, you are a free bird. :)

  13. Linda says:

    I needed this gentle reminder Laura. I have felt almost too full of everything to write – sort of frozen in my tracks by it all. I had forgotten about the desire lines – hadn’t opened my notebook. The day has been so full, and I need to take time to let it all trickle down into my heart.

  14. L. L. Barkat says:

    Linda, I know what you mean. Sometimes I need to just sit still while it sorts itself out inside. But I’ll say… Stepanie’s “little book” idea has been a good sifting device. I’ve been jotting little notes in it and I even found a couple poems!

    So glad we had a chance to be together at Laity, Linda. Keep writing along those desire lines :)

  15. HisFireFly says:

    I think I shall find my fortunes in Psalm 119 – picking a random verse for each poem

  16. HisFireFly says:

    Meant to type Psalm 19 — Psalm 119 provides too many options!


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  3. Speaking of Fractions on the Weekend . . . « Together for Good - October 9, 2011

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  4. Poured and Shaped | Know-Love-Obey God - October 10, 2011

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