| – subject matter,
– point of view and
– the form in which we will write the poem.
List each variable under each element.
Subject matter lists:
Point of view could list:
Form of the poem might list:
c. Combine the variables in different ways.
For example, you could choose to write about the resurrection from the perspective of one of the guards at the tomb. You decide to have him tell his wife what he experienced and saw, so you choose to write in the natural conversational tone of free verse. You might come up with several combinations.
d. Analyze your ideas and decide which one(s) to pursue.
Brainstorming is writing down every idea that occurs to you. You've probably already done this. A variation is to brainstorm with others. If you can't get together with other poets in person, brainstorm cooperative lists online in forums or chat rooms. Remember to uphold the usual brainstorming rule of quantity over quality. In other words, include all ideas—the good, bad and indifferent. When you're in possession of the list, combine and change the ideas to your heart's content. And don't worry if you and other poets use the same idea. Your poems will come out differently in any case.
3. Reverse brainstorm
Alter your brainstorm list by changing your perspective and expressing positives as negatives. Define what something is not. If, for example, your brainstormed list of ideas on poems about the resurrection included: "A resurrection poem is about light," you might reverse that to say, "A resurrection poem is not about darkness." Obviously every reversed idea will not lead to a poem, but some may.
4. Attribute listing
a. Select a Bible story that is meaningful to you. E.g. Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son.
b. Read it in the Bible and break it into its parts or scenes.
c. Think of a way to portray each scene. Take into account the point of view you want to speak from, the form, and how this story speaks to your personally. (If you want to get really thorough, you could go through the "Idea Box" procedure above.)
d. Combine the various elements in a new way, thus creating a poetry retelling of the story. You may come up with a poem sequence, or a ballad, or a free verse rant by the older brother.
5. Random Element
a. Define the problem.
b. Then introduce a random element, such as a picture, or a word picked out of a dictionary, or a false rule (e.g. "You cannot repeat any word") which you must then relate to your problem.
6. Role play
Take on the identity of a Bible or historical character. Write a poem in his or her voice. This is great way to help you understand and experience what the heroes of faith went through. The Gallery has many such poems. In "Israel's Girl" by Emma Akuffo explores the Bible character Rachel. In "Cursed" Shelly Bryant explores Satan's thoughts on being told he would from that time forward crawl on his belly.
7. Do something modern and surprising with a Christian story or symbol
Jennifer Galey transposes the New Testament Bible stories of miracles into the setting of a museum in "Museum of Miracles."
Elizabeth Cole does something similar in "Carve Your Name Into the Cross." There she describes herself performing an action on the cross (carving her name into it) that in our culture indicates a way of declaring our ownership of it.
8. Write in a form
Take a common subject of poetry and challenge yourself to write about it within the confines of a form. Christopher Alexion's poem about the resurrection—"Christus Victor"—is a sonnet. Other poems that do this with success are Barbara Colebrook Peace's pantoum "Innkeeper's Song" from her book Duet for Wings and Earth, and D. S. Martin's ghazal "Easter Ghazal" from Poiema.
9. Focus a poem on a mystical moment from your life
10. Write about an aspect of your spiritual life using simile or metaphor
Think about your spiritual life—your faith, your prayer life, your devotional life. Complete this sentence: "My faith is like…" or "My prayers are like…" or "My devotional life is like…"
Write a poem using the imagery that occurs to you. Try to expand the simile or metaphor through the entire poem as Mary Lou Cornish does in "Spider-web Faith."
11. Write a questioning poem
Are there some of the teachings of the Bible or the church that don't line up with your life? Work your questions and conflicts into a poem, as Mary Lou Cornish has in "I Chased My Healing." Can you come to a resolution, as this poem does?
12. Write an ekphrastic poem
Ekphrastic poetry "imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual."4 Write a poem about your favorite religious work of art. (If you need inspiration, browse through the hundreds of the paintings linked at Biblical Art on the WWW.) John Dreyer's "The Madonna's Blue Sky Morning" is an ekphrastic poem.
Hopefully these twelve ways of thinking about your faith in terms of poetry will lead to poems that are fresh and communicate to poetry-lovers of our generation. Explore more poems in the Gallery and Archive here at Utmost to find additional ideas and examples. Then come back in June when we'll take a look at the ode in my final "Poet's Classroom" column.
Coming June 1:
In her final column Violet will discuss "Odes."
Did you find this article helpful? Please let us know.
Copyright ©2010 by Violet Nesdoly
1 Jill Baumgaertner, "Poetry: Why Bother?", Christianity Today, November/December 2000,last accessed March 10 , 2010 (preview only).
2 Dick Hayes, "Does Christian Poetry Need a Revival?" Utmost Christian Writers, © 2003, last accessed April 20, 2010.
3 This idea and several others are adapted from techniques described in "20 Creative Thinking Techniques" by Marelisa Fábrega, Abundance Blog at Marelisa Online, last accessed April 20, 2010.
4 John Drury, The Poetry Dictionary, Writer's Digest Books (Cincinnati OH, 2006), 84.