It Doesn’t Work

I recently read a blog post that suggested if you needed to remember your creative ideas that come in the night while you are sleeping, just make up a song about the idea and since song lyrics are stored in a different part of the brain, your idea will stay safely stored there until morning when you can get back to you writing.  This sounded like a great idea.  The next time I’m having trouble sleeping because in my head I’m working out the next plot device, I can just start writing a little song, a sonetta, or a ditty.  It certainly sounds easy enough.  I love the idea of all my creative thoughts packing up their suitcase to move to a new and different part of my brain.  Just like finding a clean and relaxing hotel room.

BUT, wait!  I’m a children’s poet.  I’ve tried writing poems at night in bed while I’m trying to sleep.  Wouldn’t my creative projects be stored in the same place as that song?  Wouldn’t the rhythm of the song be the same as the rhythm of my poem? I already know this doesn’t work.  There are thousands of nights when I’ve had an idea for a poem and spent time in my dream state working out the rhyme and meter–a strong marching cadence.  I’ve even congratulated myself on the elegant rhymes, the excellent word choice, the stunning verbs, the fantastic images I’ve been able to pack into a few short lines.  I chuckle at the funny twist I’ve been able to roll into the last line.  I feel so good about what I’ve been able to accomplish in the tight little verse, that I’m able to lull myself back to sleep.  When I awake, I remember the good time I had putting together my children’s poem.  I might even remember what the topic of the poem was, but I’m usually not able to retrieve my end rhymes, or the funny twist at the end.  This drives me crazy.  In fact, in the light of day, my little poem doesn’t sound so funny at all and the twelve lines I had in my sleep, now only comes out as four or eight.

This is why I have a handy little device by my bed–a note pad with a built in pen.  The pad lights up when I remove the pen.  This lets me jot down my ideas in the night.  It doesn’t make my rhymes better, but it does store the thought until I can get up and work on the verses.  It gives me peace of mind so I can go back to sleep until I’m ready to get up and play with the words and poetic lines.  Of course this might be part of the reason my best working time is between 3 and 5 in the middle of the night.  When the words want to come out to play, I want to be there to party with them.

Ah, the life of a children’s poet is a very strange lot.

Monday Morning

MONDAY MORNING

Making coffee,
feeling the day is too early,
looking out winter windows
into gray, bare trees
rising behind them
in the skyline
bubble gum, rosy, radiant
sun coming, energy kick,
morning glow.
I say, thanks God,
for small miracles.
You always provide
what I need.

I was busy working on a poem this morning for my children’s poetry blog and when it came time to save the poem, I saw that I had already saved a poem with the title MONDAY MORNING. I looked at this poem written at an earlier date (when I still lived in NC) and I liked the way the poem made me feel. So, I thought I’d share that poem with you today. I hope you are having a sunny day too.

Little Prepositions

     I was reading a friend’s poem posted on her blog. A free verse poem, and there it was. She ended a line with the word “to.”
     I read the stanza again and omitted the “to,” the poem read as well. The line break gave the pause. So omitting the word made for a tighter poem, sure. But as often happens, this did get me thinking.
     I remember being in a workshop led by Dana Wildsmith where we submitted poems to all critique. When it came time to look at my poem, I had ended a line on a preposition. By this time, I did know the first and last rule. The first word and the last are the ones a reader should remember.  Some poets even adhere to this rule for their contest entries.  I can remember Melissa Morphew claiming her first winning chapbook entry was mailed on the last possible day, since she wasn’t able to be first; she wanted to be last so her poetry would adhere to the judge’s memory.

     So, Dana Wildsmith looked at my preposition ending a line and pointed out this was a fairly risky thing to do–to end the line on a preposition.  Was the word really that important to me and to the meaning of my poem?  I was giving a lot of real estate in the poem to a word that may have just been a throw away, a little preposition.  It took me a long time to understand the importance of this little rule.  I now look closely at the first and the last words of each line.  I try very hard to end each line in an action, or more likely, with an image.

     Just for fun, find a random poem and check the first word of each line and the last word or each line.  What do you find?  Then can you use these words to write your own poem?  Can you find stronger images or actions?  (I just did this with a Mary Oliver poem and wow can she pack in the concrete images and great verbs.)  

     Have fun writing.