Books for Poets | Mailing List | Copyrights | About Us


Finding Poems

April 2011

Have you ever had someone ask you to write them a poem?

As Naomi Shihab Nye says in her poem, "Valentine For Ernest Mann": "You can’t order a poem like you order a taco. Walk up to the counter, say, 'I’ll take two' and expect it to be handed back to you on a shiny plate."

Maybe non-poets believe that poets can conjure up poems at will (or with a simple prompt). Nye continues and suggests that rather, poems hide in places where poets find them.

It reminds me of Gary Snyder’s little poem “How Poetry Comes To Me” from 1992 that also talks about how we find poems and how they find us.
It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

Poetry is a wild animal that is sometimes clumsy and dwells outside our knowledge and awareness. It comes to us only so far. Then, we need to "meet it at the edge of the light” in that place between the known and the unknown.

How do poets do this? Again, Nye suggests that "Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us, we find poems.

For our April writing prompt, write about how you find poems (or found one poem) or how they find you. Yes, it's a poem about inspiration and the Muses.

And let me know.

Red Suitcase (American Poets Continuum) book
Red Suitcase

There is more about poetry, poets this prompt and many other writing prompts on the Poets Online blog. Share your thoughts with a comment there.

Lost: Poem

The sign on the tree
said Lost:Poem
with a picture of a pen
in the center where
you would expect to find
the photo of a dog or cat.
The poem answers
to the name "Sonnet"
and its owner can't pay any reward,
but he really misses her.

Where do you find a poem?
You have to think like a poem.
Head towards the woods,
to a place in the cool shade
at the edge of the meadow sun,
sit, wait, listen
for a slight rustling in understory.
Hold your breath
and reach out
with a firm but gentle hand.

Lianna Wright


Poems seep from the fractures
in my bones, if I’m lucky.
They’re slippery, sometimes
stubborn, and you have to wrap
your hands around them to really
make them talk. The bug on my computer
screen drops poems from its wings
as it flies over to the cap of my water
bottle, they are left behind from the tires
of my car, mixed into raindrops.
Sometimes it’s hard to wring
out a good poem from joy,
those are the sticky ones- it’s when
I know the words are there, but I can’t
read them. They cluster under shadows,
on the walls behind posters, beneath
fingernails and in between teeth
because they are too scared of being told
“no” and because they don’t
feel that they are polished enough
to scanned over with someone else’s
eyes, or poked at with a pen.
Sometimes I see them poke their
heads through the holes made
by caterpillars in a maple leaf
or see them shimmy their way
through the screen of my window.
They are that flick of light through
the sky, that dismissed whisper
in you’re ear that never really
goes away.

Diana Lagomarsino


They enter my window
when birds sing up the sun.

I drive by a bus stop
and find
scribbled on a cardboard sign.

I catch a glimpse of a poem
in the joy of a first grader's smile
when he first learns
his b's from his d's.

At the end of the day,
they find me in my garden
where the azaleas are opening spring.

Bobbie Townsend


Poems are afraid of the light.
They’re not like children,
who face the dark with extra lights
and toy friends to keep them safe.
No, poems thrive in the dark.
They crave the absence of light.
They shy away from the sun.
Poems breathe best at night
when I’m at the edge of consciousness,
sinking into sleep. That’s when –
yes, only then – that’s when
a poem snakes across my pillow.
It circles my head, before lunging
into my ear and nesting in my brain.
And I’m left lurching out of bed,
stumbling half-bind through the darkness
to search for a pen and a scrap of paper.
And once it’s out, it breeds;
dozens of poems can be born in one night.
But when the sun starts its blazing path
over the horizon, drowning out the darkness,
the poems scamper away. They’ll hide,
cursing the light, and I won’t be able to write
a single poem until the light is gone.

Michelle Lesniak


I don’t know where my poems come from.
Reviewing my work
To try and find their start
Only causes my stomach to knot.
Would an MRI of my brain on poetry,
If there was such a thing, provide a solution?
No, we still would not have a root cause.
I’m afraid science can’t help.
And Googling shows no one
Wastes precious dollars on such ephemera.

But the Greeks had it write.
(Excuse the pun.)
The Muses inspire and aid us.
Three or nine to start and then ten.
(Check Wikipedia as reference.)
Can I be so bold as to say they have aided me here?

Ellen Kaplan


on this splendid spring day
a gaunt elderly woman
wearing a white angora tam
orders herself a poem
at the silver spoon diner

she blends well with the
grey vinyl booth like a
vintage poster
her strawlike hair
dangles over one brow

smudges of rouge decorate
her cheeks and lips
translucent skin drapes
over blue rivers of veins
and the pungent smell of

rose perfume hangs heavy
in the air around her
eyes fixed on a blank tablet
she takes a sip of tea
begins to write

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


We were walking on a twisty way my poem and I
We were talking secrets and our hieroglyphic hearts
Were beating with the lush loamy smell of the forest and the moon
My God, the moon!
Shone blandly on it all and we shuddered in its halflight, we are
Too red and full of blood to let the thin green light of it blanch
into nevers and nowheres, our forevers so lush
ever blooming rose colored callings like wild bird calls unfolding
out of the clear thin blackish air on the twisty way and the empty hands
(we held out because we had to stop in a meadow it was so glowy)
The empty hands were full and the song made the road and the road was the way
We sang it to life and the moon hid because oh it was all when it bloomed into beauty.

Patty Tomsky


A soft whisper in the ear
Hot and smooth
Sending a wave of goose bumps
Down my neck, shoulder, and hand
Wanting to pull away
The electricity so sharp through my skin
But addicted to the thrill
Of the Muses' kiss

I lean in
Against the fidgeting of my skin
Eyes closed with pen in hand
Promises of words
Of time suspended
That this kiss will last forever

With out warning
Like a memory of a past lover
My ear is cold
The pen is still
On the paper is the lipstick left
From the Muses' kiss

Jamey Boelhower


I don’t find poetry.
It is plastered across an April sky
Woven into emerging foliage
Breathed into the lilt
Of voices I love
It is so


It is everywhere
And belongs to everyone
If it did not, it would no longer
Thrum with the energy of shared
Like a cool drink shared on a hot day
Like the penned breath of an audience
as they await the outcome of a play
Like the satisfied sigh,
when warm socks are slid over feet of cold clay.
I don’t find poetry.
It finds me
And I attempt to spin
A filigree of thoughts
Into spider web words
Like a lace dress.
I am just draping my own


Across the poetry that is already there
Pulsing, and poignant
Through my pointillism perception.

E. Jordy Slade


He came to me when I was young
and unafraid of ugly things.
He badly needed mending —
his hair was sparse and stringy
and his teeth had all fallen out;
he had three legs and one arm,
crooked, gaunt, and dry;
he was riddled with crusty edges,
and always gasping help me,
help me, help me, help me.

In what hair he had, I linked flowers.
I bathed him in rich rose water,
put his limbs back in place, and
dressed him in a navy blue suit.
I made him strong with things
like philosophy, warmth, and food,
and taught him new words like
ponder, jovial, and dexterous.

In time he grew calm, stopped his gasps,
but he sometimes seemed breathless.
One morning I found him dying.
I pleaded to know what I'd done wrong.
He wrote a note that said he had to go
because an ending was needed,
there was somewhere else to be.

When he died in the middle of the night
I realized his poetry was always there:
in his past, on his inside, all the places
I had not looked. I wasn't surprised that
his heart kept beating after he died.

Jamie Taylor