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Let The Poem Find You
Copyright©2002 by Barbara Mitchell

Five hours free of interruptions. No ringing phone—you've taken it off the hook. No children crying—you've given them away for the afternoon.

You're going to channel these minutes, rein them and make them work. You're going to write! Five hours run loose before you. Creative tension has been building. Nothing will stand in your way. You've been tamping down delicious thoughts and feelings while carting groceries and pushing a stroller. Now you beckon to creativity, call it forth from the deep well of sentiment, the place where your spirit lives.

The paper is primed, the air flush with silence. Your pen is poised. Yes, that paper is ready. Okay, you are waiting. Yes, all that paper is ready.

The unbearable urge to create is suddenly stifled by poetic abandonment! The feelings that earlier aroused such frenzy to be etched in black and white now turn on you, traitorous in their silence.

How does this happen?

It's sad, but true, that our poetic creativity is not our handmaid. We cannot summon it simply with the snap of our fingers. The fact that we've set aside five hours for writing and found a sitter for the children does not obligate inspiration to attend us.

There may be a few poets who can crack the whip and bring the muse into instant subjection. For most of us, our relationship with poetic inspiration is undependable and mysterious.

Because we are poets at heart, we are constantly visited by ideas for new poems. But the ordinary minutia of our days lays waste to our poetic discipline. We wish for poems, think of poems and feel the throb of poems in our viscera, but few of these poems become more than a moment of desperate desire, an ache in the heart.

There are many means by which we can attempt to nurture our poems before they expire, unexperienced, but no matter how much discipline we muster we will sometimes be finding time for our poetry when it seems least ready to find us.

Don’t panic

Don't panic. Even if you feel not the least breath of poetic sensibility, you can rescue a poetic rendezvous.

First, set the mood. Candles, your favorite soft music, or poetry books bought on sale throughout the year. An open heart. A comfortable place to sit. Allow yourself the freedom to not be pressured. Put your pen beyond reach.

Second, pick a warmth or a coolness. Is it the heat of the sun slipping between the early morning blinds, the hot brilliance of afternoon slamming into the bevelled window glass? Do you feel surrounded with love or frozen in anxiety? Does the taste of winter grief seep into your bones, does it turn you to a chill? 

Pick an ache. Or a want. Perhaps a resentment, a feeling of guilt or of sharp love. Let it cloak you with its intensity, do not allow it to mellow out or lose focus. Hear the way the ache moves through you, hear the way it screams inside as the rattle and tumble of all that shrillness unsettles you. Be with the anger, be with the irritation. Let it settle on your skin and under your skin. Let it speak to you of its bristling frustrations.

If it is love or mercy or something soft filled with kindness, then let it cradle you. Is it the warm touch of a child's spirit that coaxes you to a generous mood? Are you perhaps thankful for some sharpened insight? Open yourself.

Beginning to write

Finish these sentences:

• As You pour out your Spirit on me, Father, so does my spirit pour forth on. . .
• Grief is the weight that keeps me rooted to this spot. Anger is the. . .
• How many times have You blessed me today? In the ways you have held me, in the. . .
• I never meant to make you cry, I never meant. . .

Look inside yourself and pull out what is hidden. Reshuffle the dreams you've tucked away, lure them to the surface.

•Once upon a time I was young and. . .
•Do I dare to dream? I dream of. . .
•In the beginning God made me and I gave it all away to. . .
•Though the day has battered me I shall pick myself up and. . .

You can write by knowing yourself, by believing in who you are, in searching for who you wish to be.

Pick up the pen, place your hands on the paper and write yourself onto the page. Think of your life and where it is going, into what realm of discovery will you pass next? What is the heartbeat of each and every existence that lives and breathes? How you learn to call something by name, what place of truth do you come to when everything you thought was truth fades to yet another question?

Think of God in his infinite sky looking down, and the way He gathers you into his sight, pulling you into a heart big enough to encompass the whole world, the way He has fit himself to you, how He takes your small belief and turns it into something He can recognize and work with.

Trust that these five hours belong to you. Believe that your hands bring shape to something you create, something fashioned out of that sacred place deep inside you, the way your fingers hold onto some meaning you need to carry to make your passion real.

Let the poem find you. Let it move into you and make itself known to you.