How Poetry Can Inspire Your Writing

By Breana Orland

All of us who claim the title “writer” have dry spells when the words just won’t come or times when the day’s writing is so uninspired, we decide we weren’t really cut out to be writers after all.

Inspiration is a geyser, not a stream, but we can’t always wait for the eruption to occur. In that case, it’s good to have a tool to bring inspiration gushing forth.

Poetry can be one of those tools, even (or especially) if you’re writing a novel, a short story or your memoirs.

Poems are nifty, infinitely renewable resources. You don’t have to write one to become inspired.  Looking to established poets can help you find your voice again, allowing you to slip into writing mode like an otter into water.

A Poem as a Picture
Just as a photograph can evoke memories, a poem can elicit smells, tastes and states of mind. Look up a poem, any poem, and see what pictures it paints in your imagination. Forget what you’re writing and write about the poem; not the poem, really, but what it makes you see, feel, smell.

A Poem as a Mood Setter

Let’s say you want to write about love, the end of love or your grandma’s cozy kitchen. Google “love poetry,” “poetry about loss,” or “poems about relatives.” Go through them till you find three that mirror the mood you want to create.

What kind of language did the poet use to move his or her readers? What imagery worked its magic most powerfully on you? Close your eyes and try to recreate in your mind what the poet must’ve felt to write the poem.

Once you’re crying over the break-up or salivating to the smell of cinnamon coming from grandma’s kitchen, you’re ready to write.

A Poem as a Diving Board
Even when we’re writing about unappealing characters or characters frightened out of their wits, we have to enter deeply into their psyches to bring them alive on paper. Whether you want to reveal horror, sexual abuse or madness in your character’s background, Edgar Allan Poe probably has a poem for you.

Try reading Poe’s Alone. If you’re not feeling it by the time you get to “…a demon in my view,” maybe you really aren’t a writer!

A Poem as an Exercise
An easy exercise to get you writing is to take one line from a poem that grabs you and finish or extend the thought with your own words.

For instance, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s famous poem, Oh Think Not I Am Faithful ends with the wonderful line I am most faithless when I most am true. What is she trying to say? And what kind of statement is she making about her ability to be constant in love?

If you were to take the first part of that line and finish it differently, what would you write?

Another example is Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Where would you go with that poem starting with the title alone?

Poets To Write By
Any poet and any poetry can work as inspiration for you, but if you don’t remember any of the poets you read in school or can’t find a poem that speaks to you, here’s a short list of poets whose work you can rummage through like old clothes in the attic:

Still can’t write? Make a cup of hot chocolate, drink it in bed. Read a book of poetry and let yourself fall asleep. When you wake up, write down your dreams. Then get up, sit down at your desk and WRITE!

About the Author: Breana Orland is a writer for College Scholarships and Grants. Breana also gives advice on the pursuit of higher education and career options for young adults.

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