A Poet's Toolbox: Inspiration Edition

Dear Aspiring Poet,

Which is to say “Dear Poet,” for if you are working at it, then indeed you are already a poet. Maybe it feels pretentious to claim the title, but it’s not so much a title as a way to be. All of us are in various stages of learning, for poetry is a craft and there is always more to learn, but the point is not to arrive at a place where you feel you are A Poet. The point is you choose something you love, and because you love it, you build and cultivate and nourish it.

So let’s get to the business of things. Last week we talked about some basics for the poet’s toolbox. In that post, we covered three of the tools I personally consider essentials. There are more tools at hand than you might first expect. Because poetry is about inspiration, there are specific things to help you tap into that elusive muse. When it comes down to it, it’s about tuning in to or stimulating your senses. Here are a few favorite suggestions:

Listen to Music

Music has long been an inspiration to writers and poets. (The word muse is related!) The sound settles deeply into your soul, and brings to your mind images or scenes or feelings. It speaks without words, but it accesses that same sense of expression of your inner life that you aim to do with your poetry.

Basic Assignment: Choose a station or build a musical playlist on an online platform of your choice. My favorite free version is Spotify. You can also look into Grooveshark. And then there’s Pandora. Pandora allows you to choose a station based on a particular artist you appreciate, even if you don’t get to specifically choose the songs. This can be beneficial to introduce variety, because listening to the same playlist over and over can eventually distract; you know the music well enough that you want to sing along. (For the more traditional crowd, find some favorite CDs that you find inspiring but not distracting.)

Sit for 10 minutes every day to listen and write down the words that come to you. If no words come, focus on what’s happening inside of you while the music plays, and try for words again tomorrow.


Let The Silence Speak

Music is a wonderful stimulant, but there are times where it’s just adding to the noise around you. Life is stressful at times, hectic at times, confusing at times. Often we are more stressed, harried, and mixed up than we need to be because we don’t create the space for ourselves to gather our thoughts. Silence leads to composure and concentration. Composure allows you to claim some sacred space to rest into your being. You are no longer a victim of the urgent now. That sacred space allows you to “hear yourself think.” The ability to concentrate gives a huge advantage to writing poetry because you can focus a more direct channel from your soul to your heart to your hand.

I’m not going to lie. This one is very hard for me and the opportunities are difficult to create. As a mom of young children whom I stay at home to teach and care for, I have very few moments that are actually silent. They mostly come late at night, and only when I make the time for silence a priority. I don’t always have the discipline for this, but when I do, the quiet speaks to my soul in ways beyond the capacity of sound.

Basic Assignment: Prepare a comfortable spot for some quiet space. Schedule 10 minutes of silence into each of your days for the next week, at a time that is most conditioned for quiet. For those 10 minutes, sit and keep your body still, and listen in the silence. When that time is finished, write what is on your heart. It doesn’t have to sound like poetry. It just has to sound like you.

Learn From The Witness of Nature

Nature speaks. There is no question. I cannot go out of doors and fail to be touched by the joy and the ache of Mother Nature. It fills a soul-longing on so many levels. The mind, heart, body, memory, and future hopes, all touched by the presence of creation’s canvas.

Basic Assignment: Take a walk outside in nature. (Bundle up if you need.) Gather some fallen leaves. Touch the bark of a tree. Let the cold sting your ears. Let the sun warm your face. Let the wind sing your tears. Let the scolding squirrel make you laugh. See the varying shades from ground to sky. Let your thoughts match the rhythm of your footfall. Look for life and life-giving sources. Mourn or give thanks or smile at the gift of mobility, sight, and just enough strength to take a homeward path. Let all creation capture your heart and your senses. Upon returning, write about your experience.

Above all, dear poet, I want you to realize that these things can be enjoyed without an end-goal (poetry) in mind. Sometimes they are just what your soul needs, even if they don’t lead directly to inspired words. Let your hunger be filled, and trust that if you are purposing to do the work, the words will eventually come when the time is right.




I am doing something different with Thursdays in November. The first Thursday was a poetry prompt and link-up. I used to do these weekly but am changing to monthly for now. For the remaining Thursdays, I am writing about The Poet's Toolbox. Go here to join the monthly link-up. And please share it with your friends!

Jamie Bagley