In case I haven’t made it obvious this last year, I am not a poet. Yet here I am, coming to your inbox, your social media feed, your SEO-clicked word, each Monday with a prompt that encourages you to wax poetic.
I did not ask to do this. L.L. Barkat came to me. She seems to think I’m capable of things that never would occur to me to try. Like one day a few years ago when I was on Twitter, just minding everyone else’s business, when she asked me, “And you, @calliefeyen? What book would you like to write if you could?” I’ve no idea what I wrote back, but I’m sure it was something dumb. Write a book? Please.
But back to the poetry. L.L. never said, “I think you’d be good at this,” when she asked me to write prompts. She simply described the job and then asked, “Would you like to try?”
My answer was a simple, but heartfelt yes.
Above my writing desk is a quotation from one of my favorite love stories, Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Carl Brown, one of the main characters, is considering his wife Annie’s pursuit to write. Carl adores Annie, but he is apprehensive about her writing because, as anyone who’s in a relationship with a writer knows, the craft takes us away for a while. Many times we are changed when we come back. Carl understands this. He knows that for Annie, writing is not so much a hobby as it is a sense of being.
I guess she’s all right, he thought, or she wouldn’t be writing….Nothing will ever throw her — no matter what happens to her — if she can get it down on paper.”
This is how I feel about writing, and why I didn’t hesitate when L.L. asked me to write poetry prompts. Writing — no matter the genre — is how I make sense of the world, and I am thankful for the many different ways there are to do that: creative nonfiction, fiction, screenwriting, journalism, and yes, poetry. What an abundant number of avenues there are to wander along and wonder about one’s life.
I think the question, “Would you like to try?” is at its heart, a playful one, and that’s why I bring up this anecdote. “Play” has been July’s theme, and I believe playing is the beginning of trying.
This past year I tried to write poetry prompts that would inspire (or haunt) you to pull a poem out, and it has been fun. I never concerned myself over whether or not I was a poet. I just played.
Play shakes things loose. It allows us to wander and discover. Play encourages us to try the what-ifs that pop up, the ones we might otherwise not be willing to consider because it’s scary. Play shrugs its shoulders at that attitude, hands us a soccer ball, a scuba mask, a paintbrush, a pen, and says, “Would you like to try?”
If you’ve been following along this month, I’ve been suggesting ways to read a poem. This week’s exercise comes from Tania Runyan’s book, How To Read a Poem.
Consider reading a poem and paying attention to the five senses in it. Write down what you feel, hear, smell, etc. in your journal. Or if you want to write a poem, try writing one about play that uses all five senses. What does play feel like? What does it sound like? Maybe you can write a poem about play so vivid you don’t even use the word.
A Writer’s Dream Book
“Callie Feyen has such a knack for telling personal stories that transcend her own life. In my years in publishing, I’ve seen how hard that is—but she makes it seem effortless, and her book is such a pleasure. It’s funny, it’s warm, it’s enlightening. Callie writes about two of the most important things in life—books and clothes—in utterly delightful and truly moving ways. I’m impressed by how non-gimmicky and fresh her writing is. I love this book.”
—Sarah Smith, Executive Editor Prevention magazine; former Executive Editor Redbook magazine