Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Everyday Life as Inspiration

Last night, our family went for an amphibian-migration walk.  It was my husband's idea, and at first I did not want to go.  But we all piled into the car and headed off to the marsh to find amphibians.  Armed with flashlights, we sure found them: spring peepers, wood frogs, and bullfrogs too!  (Did you know that April is not only National Poetry Month but also National Frog Month?)

I felt grateful that Mark got us going, and we were amazed at how many things were happening at dusk in the wild.

Today's poem grew from last evening's walk, from walking in puddles and scooping up tiny peepers with our hands.   It was part of my day, and that's where the poem started.

This reminds me of something I heard Georgia Heard say that her teacher Stanley Kunitz once said, "You must live in a way that lets you find poems."  These words have never left me. 

After a year of daily poems and strategy ideas.  I will be revisiting one strategy/technique for each day of April.  Today's thought is: pay attention to line breaks and white space when you read and write poems!

Poems about Everyday Happenings

One of the most interesting parts of writing is that you can think about it all of the time.  Writers get their ideas all day and all night long, not just when they sit at their writing tables.  No one will see your thoughts, but inside you head you can always wonder and ponder. "Hmmm...that's strange."  Or, "I might write about that later."  When you write, you notice things that other people do not.  Artists and scientists do this too.  To create, one must observe.

It is wonderful when we realize that very rich writing comes from the things that happen to us every day, just plain old normal things.  When I started writing, I thought that I had to have fancy ideas and experiences to write about, things like big vacations and birthday parties and injuries.  But as I read more and more, I realized that my favorite books and poems to read are about regular people with regular lives.  People like me.

Here are a few poems from this poetry year which  highlight regular experiences.  You might have done some of these things or had some of these feelings yourself.  After reading, consider going on a "poem treasure hunt" and just walk around looking for poem ideas in your own life.  Just like spring peepers at this time of  year, they may be camouflaged.  It's up to you to find them!

The following poems draw on my own everyday experiences.

Chin Puppets - Poems can tap into our play life.
Soap Hope - Many writers write about pet peeves .
Laundry Hugging - We can write about simple comforts.
In Grandma's Bowl -  Everyday objects hold writing ideas.
Preserving Fall -  Writing captures our memories.
Dirty Secret - - We can write about our secrets.
The Bin -  Poem ideas may grow from regular chores.
After Rain -  Weather is a rich source of daily writing.

For a book which highlights many ordinary happenings, check out Ralph Fletcher's A WRITING KIND OF DAY. 

The next time you wonder, "What should I write about?"  remember to look around.  You can write about anything you see or think.

Naomi Shihab Nye says this best in her wise poem, "Valentine for Ernest Mann," a poem I have quoted here before.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us, 
we find poems.  Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.

And let me know.

This Month's Poetry Revisits and Lessons So Far

April 2 - Imagery
April 3 - Poems about Animals We Know
April 4 - Line Breaks and White Space
Today -  Poems from Everyday Life

In the beginning of May, I would love to highlight and share student poems which have been inspired by any of this month's posts.  Teachers and homeschooling parents: I welcome your students' work and plan to hold a special book giveaway for poet participants!  

Please send any pieces your students are willing to share, along with a brief bit from the writer about the inspiration/story behind the poem to amy at amylv dot com. 

(Please click on POST A COMMENT below to share a thought.)


  1. Thank you for all your great ideas. Poetry is a passion of mine and I've gotten away from writing it. I want to get back in the habit. You've inspired me.

  2. Thank you so much for your note! I believe that people with poetry-passion will find their way back, even if it's only 10 minutes a day...it is a present to you. A.

  3. Well, get ready, because my students are chomping at the bit to get their writing to you! Here is a poem about homework, an everyday thing, by Madelyn Stoklosa, age 8.

    I sort of like my homework
    but I do it everyday,
    and when I'm done with homework
    I'd like to start to play.

    And when it's time for reading,
    that is home work too,
    I REALLY REALLY love to read,
    I hope that you do to!

  4. Thank you, Bonnie and Madelyn! What a true homework poem too. My children feel the same way about reading as you do...and so do I. Reading is such wonderful homework that it doesn't even feel like work! I would love to put this poem on the blog when I do a post about rhyme and particularly, quatrains. Is this ok? A.