Rooster is quiet
Fridge and fan my company
Words stay, sometimes flee
The above original haiku inspired by yours truly was composed in honor of National Poetry Month. On April 1 I brought a group of my students to a poetry reading on campus, which we quickly discovered was to kick-off National Poetry Month and I’ve been thinking more poetically ever since.
We listened to artists share pieces that were about grief, loss, love, celebration, trauma, and honoring loved ones. It was inspiring to listen to.
And also similar to what we put in the pages of our journals.
A lot of journal writers use freestyle in their journals to record the events of the day, note thoughts, feelings, fantasies, dreams, regrets.
As I was sitting there listening to the poets share their work, I thought it would be fun for National Poetry Month, to try exploring a little poetry in my pages. How can you unleash the poet who didn’t know it? (I know – I am such a nerdy word girl sometimes).
List rhyming words. This can be a fun activity to start on your own in your journal or even do with a family journal. Write a few words and see what you come up with that rhyme with that word. Cat, rat, mat, bat, pat. Cold, gold, old, fold, told…you get the point. As you work through this warm up exercise, you may start to think of words that are a little bit longer or come up with other pairs. Teacher, preacher, meet your…(there’s that nerdy word girl again).
You and I both know that not all poetry rhymes. I love that about poetry. There are different types you can explore – haiku, sonnets, limerick – but at the end of the day, you can choose not to follow any of the rules and do your own thing. And it can still be poetry.
Maybe your list of rhyming words will inspire you to create a rhyming poem. And maybe it won’t. Either way, it gets your pen moving and thinking about words in a creative capacity.
Find the poems that are already there. Open your journal to a previous entry and with pencil in hand, start to circle words. You could circle every third word. Or every thirty-third. You could circle one on each line. You could circle all the words that have three syllables.
Using a blank page, write the circled words into their own poem. Add connective words that you might need, such as “to,” “and,” etc. Then read over what you’ve got. Does your poem capture the essence of what the original journal entry was about? Or does it tell a completely different story?
And even more importantly, do you notice something about your writing and word choice that you didn’t notice before?
Find a poem you like. Make a copy of it and slip it between the pages of your journal. Or rewrite the text in your own handwriting. In your journal entry, discuss what it is about this poem that speaks to you. What do you like about it? What are the specific words, lines or stanzas that strike a chord with you. Poetry is about feeling. What does this poem make you feel? Sometimes when we dive into why we like a piece of art (and oh yes, poetry is most definitely art), we learn a little something about ourselves that we didn’t know before.
Intentionally write a poem. In the pages of your journal, start to draft an entry in the form of a poem. Don’t worry too much about the form or the flow at first. This is just your work in your own private journal. Like all of your other entries, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And it also doesn’t have to be hard. Pick something from the world around you and write about it. A blooming flower. The feel of your grandmother’s hand in yours. The smell coming from your kitchen. Let the words flow without overthinking it too much.
Look up different forms of poetry and play with them. Discover how haiku can tell a story. Just how long a piece of prose can be. Pay attention to song lyrics and determine which ones were likely poems first (all of them maybe?). Write about it in your journal and see where it takes you.
And Happy National Poetry Month!
Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.