Poetry: One Step at a Time

Poetry: One Step at a Time

these shoes are made for walking

I was still basking in the afterglow from the Civil Wars concert last week and it was time for my hour of writing. The day was lovely, not too hot, and it screamed at me to come and walk in it. In my fiction class, I give out a sheet on Writer's Block night filled with exercises to help get through the dreaded block. One of those exercises (which I hadn't tried) suggested a poet try writing a poem by taking a walk and writing one line at the end of every block.

I decided to try it.

I set out with my pocket notebook, the beginnings of an idea, and little else. The area in which I live is not known for clearly defined blocks, so I improvised. This extended to my poetry, where I noticed that a bit of a pattern was forming. My poem took it's subject matter from a play on the idea of "civil wars" in romantic relationships. The poem was iambic, but had only 2 iambs per line. In colloquial speech, this means that there were 4 syllables per line and every second syllable was stressed. Da-dum, da-dum.

Sorry about that, I kicked into teacher mode...

I found that I'd almost completely memorized the poem as I went. My walking rhythym matched the rhythym of the words I was trying to piece together. It was quite an experience.

In between the actual writing, I had lots of time to think about where I was going with the poem, what I wanted to say and how I was going to say it. By the end of a block, I might have switched out a word several times, testing it against the rest of the poem, the rest of the line and the poetry in my own feet.

When I was finished, I had 14 lines of iambic something-or-other, and a comemorative poem from my weekend. Usually, I might get more writing done and perhaps produce greater volume, but for some reason, this exercise was perfect for the day.

I hope some of you, my loyal readers, will give it a try too.

And, since I (hope) know you'd like to read the poem, (even though it's unpolished and in the same state I wrote it in) here it is:


Civil Wars

We fight, as if                                                                                                          we meant to kill.                                                                                                  Each blow, falls hard                                                                                                on trembling flesh.                                                                                                  No need to force                                                                                                      a way inside,                                                                                                  invasion was                                                                                                  complete, long ago.                                                                                                But when I strike                                                                                                  your face, it's mine                                                                                              that feels the sting.                                                                                              What can bring peace,                                                                                        at last, to these:                                                                                                    our civil wars?