Poets Online Archive
Automatic Writing

In automatic writing, the words seem to come from some other person. Some might say it is a another side of ourselves. Some say it is an entity from another realm bringing messages through a writing implement, a computer, or any other means of communicating through the written word. You'll find information online about writers who use this type of prewriting quite seriously, and you'll find a good number of "occult" sites that connect it with the spirit world.    Whatever...

They say: Sometimes the messages come in foreign languages. Often the person does not recognize their own handwriting. Often spaces are not made between words, there is no punctuation, a picture or symbol is part of the writing.

The model we used was Andre Breton's poem Always for the First Time.

For us: Get into a comfortable position - today you will be seated at your computer. Be sure you are free of distractions. If you are tired --this could actually work better for you.
Open the web page that contains our random line generator
You may open a word processor program window simultaneously if you prefer to type, or simply put writing paper beside your keyboard.
Generate a line. Copy that line and begin writing whatever comes to mind.
Keep your own lines at about the same length as the line generated.

Any time you are at a loss for the next thing to write, generate a new line and begin again.
You should continue for at least 15 minutes. You will want to generate many more words than you will ultimately use in your poem. If you are working on the computer, save and/or print your lines.

Then take a break from poetry. Do something else for a while. When you return to your lines, read through them and look for any common themes that seem to emerge. Circle any words that seem to be part of those themes.

Next is the process of selecting phrases or entire lines that appeal to you. Perhaps, a poem began to emerge in the writing - perhaps, it still needs to be found. You should try NOT to add very much to the words you wrote. Look for the sense in your writing rather than applying sense over the lines.


The men of our imagination speak in the moonless night,
Their words unfit for public speaking,
Curling at their feet and growling
Slipping silently along the moistened ground

Decrepit they are in their features
Stone noses and calloused ears
Their eyes trip about, to and fro
Scanning each other, themselves, others, you, me

They cannot speak kindly; their words are only those of war
Quick sons of Mars, fecund friends to blood
They ache for visceral pleasures
For the steam of raw and tender flesh

Their hearts exposed; they beat relentlessly
Their breath is quick and redolent with meat
They know and relish primitive desires
Desires other men fear, cautious for their selves

Their whispers gurgle slick, both common and exotic
Their words sharp projectiles, slung like mean tacks
Their demeanors stolid, faces set, determined
Yet, their spirits are delirious, ripe with relish for their strength

We know the moon is not hidden by clouds
The moon all-knowing has fled for tamer quarters
Leaving the footprints of these men to be discovered
Only by future alien tribes who come and wonder

Robert Stribley

Memories of words escape under a cover of new snow

Blankets keep us from the cold always creeping in
seeping into the cracks in our bones
relegating us to icy bone stacks.
Your words are blanketed and warm always creeping in
where I need salvation and firelight.
Snow covers the ground where my thoughts lie
under mounds of white stuff ready to be shoveled.
I realize that you stand with your shovel in hand
ready to discard the excess of my thoughts and
leave them piled at the roadside to melt and drain
into cavernous spaces that end up God knows where.
Blankets keep us warm sealing the cracks where
the cold is always creeping in and our thoughts are
relegated to the icy bone stacks of our fears.

The memories of our imagination echo in the water,
draining away from the piles at street level where
the best and brightest of our ideas are sacrificed
at the hands of loved ones with shovels and approval.
I remain under my blanket in a white quiet
soon to be discarded and disregarded for trespassing.
Yet under your warm blanket rests the safe harbor
where the water of my memory will find its way back
to pool and evaporate and fall softly as newly fallen snow.

Karen Kimbell


The angels lie unvoiced
on earth but not in heavens
songs. They fly through the
suns path of gold into the
coming nights twilight.

Becky Erb



the leaves of tears turn
coffee and weather-stripping
keep this cold january morning
at bay

i search for a change of scenery but
there is only
the white of Zen
dotted with nothing

it leaks into my being
floods my soul with endless leaves of tears

this barren soul of mine
yearns to ache
feel their sadness

some say i should try harder
focus on one thing at a time
give up red meat and cigarettes
practice fen shui
hang the windchimes nearer the door

kill not the little spiders crawling over my rotting bones
some say drink more water
stop the caffeine

tighten the screws of my soul

i say


Marie a. Mennuto-Rovello


The old ones of longing speak after the first death.
Does the age of a person determine his longing
or does he become old at the first death in his life
or the pattern of longing turn him into an old one
no matter his age at the time? Was death a cause
or effect of old age or merely a part of his pattern
of longing, and how he was affected by the second
or third, aging him further; or dulling his sense of
longing, speaking less shrill, with less meaning ?

The old ones of birth breathe sensuously, because they
have reasons for rejoicing alone in the twilight of life;
or perhaps because the chorus has left them to the finale
which they deserve to finish alone because of the years
these poets of evening shared in framing their words
and having used time to learn how life strains all poesy
through pain’s passion that has danced in their bones.
They’ve shared, from every dawn through each nighttime,

the dreams that not many dancers have known. As children
of not many words, they ‘ve chanted a few to the surface
from years-ago poetry-ghosts, born in shadowy worlds
where the ancients sang out their words of poetic wisdom.

Shapes of words often speak like dancers on the stage,
even while children dreaming of when, as Poets of Evening,
they, too, will rejoice like the old ones, with songs of age
that will sound their first joyous dance on this earthly stage
while original Poets of evening, in the wings off-stage, beckon -
as only the old ones can do while awaiting their once-again death .

Catherine M. LeGault


Your oldest friends
of winter
breathe unseen
by anyone but you.
You meet them in the night
under the moon
where snowflakes long
to be caught on a tongue,

your tongue can taste like safety
or goodbye, your breath
is smoky heat in the night.
It's automatic
how we both reach for each other

in the morning
the sun so bright behind the curtain
that the sleepless bed looks fresh
and inviting beyond this moment
a wordless turn down,

cold sheets, like snow, breath
is steam, sweet snowflakes,
unseen, enough to make it
to another night.
I'll meet you there - the window
just below the moon.

Pamela Milne



Your self is a special collection, thumbed                          by my white gloves. I reach for a volume
of you, remembering our flexible enthusiasm.                   Even under the bruises, we dreamed in camel
smoke and lilac. Life is now crueler                                  in its complacency, punches a time clock.
Cicadas hum Auld Lang Syne.                                           The men of imagination sleep in our forgetting.
Their acetate ties crumble from dew, their bowlers grow brittle, their motives arthritic. I do not mind
this waking and sleeping, this dining on moderate meals. Shapes of discord embrace below the surface,
rarely trouble my toes. Though some days,                         I am so slight the slightest fawning yanks me under.
My child breathes like a tree in winter, beneath                 her brow the ferment of possibility. Foolish to cling
to our forming, to fold from the whiplash of memory.         I’ve been long since upstanding, ordinary, reformed.

Anne Boyer


The memories of wanting
reach like a dancer alone on the stage,
reach inside me,
out of me like there’s never been another want
but of one for you
and when I think of this,
when I look at this want
I want for it to go away, far away
where it won’t feel like anything I recognize,
like anything I will have to look at
or smell or imagine or play with or even touch,
to touch is to know and I don’t want to know
want like I knew with you.

I wanted to be a dancer when I was a little girl -
my mother got me lessons, I wore makeup on stage,
my brother danced with me and wore makeup too,
I have no memory of the dance or of being on stage
if it weren’t for family photos I wouldn’t know,
what I would like to know is why I stopped -
why don’t I take lessons anymore, mother
why are there no more pictures of me on stage with all the makeup
and shiny hair and very beautiful costumes, ones that sparkled
in the light and glittered, made me feel like the whole world
was watching me,
did you hate it that they were watching me instead of you
is that why you stopped taking me to dance lessons
why did it matter to you, being looked at, being noticed,
did you need that from everyone,
did you not get enough from those you loved or who said they loved you,
why was it so hard for you to let others look at me,
admire me,
say how beautiful I was?

Susan Stewart


There is a train that goes
From Torino to Paris
That arrives a Lyon L'Est at 11:50 PM.
There is a train that goes
From Geneva to Barcelona
Arriving at Lyon L'Est at midnight.

None of the station agents
Know of the trains
But I believed the printed word
In Thomas Cook,
European train book.
It, at first appeared random
That a correspondence would be so close
And directions so different.

I kept thinking it was a mistake
To wait on a wintry platform
But the Goddess of the Cross Roads
Came to me from the black train yards
On mercury vapor lamp light.

"I am a different fate,
Not one of the three ladies,
Closer to old Nick, the trickster
Who says rub my belly
And you will be surprised.
One train has love and one train has distance
And both have love and distance and one choice.

Edward N Halperin



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