How to start a poem

Poets are good listeners. They find moments, experiences and images and write poems from what others might perceive as silence. Often poetry exposes the ugliness and the beauty of our world reminding us what we might have forgotten or what we never would have noticed. Poetry can spark political discussion, protest a wrong, affect change, be mindful of the natural world, expose the horrors of war, invite someone into a personal space or it can be a quiet voice that invokes a spiritual presence or a connection to a higher power. With all that poetry is and can be it’s easy to get overwhelmed with just starting a poem.

Places to start a poem

A line of one of your finished poems
A line or phrase from another poet
A list of your favorite words
American sentence: a sentence with seventeen syllables 
Foreign language dictionary
Google searches
I Remember i.e. based on Joe Brainard’s book length poem I Remember
Journal entries (yours or historical texts)
Letters or emails
Notes from a class or lecture
Old newspaper or magazine clippings (try a black-out poem)
Poem Sketching (Sandford Lyne’s book below)
With a title
With a collaborator

Suggested Reading

A Natural History of the Senses
Diane Ackerman

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop
Steve Kowit

Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within
Kim Addonizio

Poem Crazy: Falling in Love with Words
Susan Wooldridge

The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide
Robert Pinsky

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
Richard Hugo

Writing Poetry from the Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry
Sandford Lyne