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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

Brown Paper Poems

The physical act of capturing a poem overwhelms me at times. This week I started one which in both my mind and intuition was a bombardment of images and I couldn’t quite organize it either on the computer or in my trusty notebook. I couldn’t figure out what came first, what followed and what concluded, whether to stifle some lines and enhance others. I didn’t want to let go of intriguing language, but the poem still had to make sense.

Then I remembered a trick a poet suggesting many years ago. When she wrote, she spread butcher paper on the floor. If she had a central thought or image, she wrote it either at the top or in the center. Then she wrote everything that pertained around it on the paper. I had attended brainstorming sessions in meetings that used a similar technique. After I read the article – I can’t recall the name of the poet – I tried this a few times and got a couple of poems I was pleased with.

So this past week when I had a draft that was driving me crazy, I suddenly remembered this idea. I didn’t have butcher paper, but I had a bunch of brown paper bags. I cut them and laid them flat and wrote down all the images, facts, words, ideas, descriptions and dreams that were ricocheting around in my mind and heart. When I could objectively examine them, they began to organically come together to make not only sense, but art.

I tried it again yesterday and once more had pretty good results.

Some poems arrive ‘whole cloth’ as if dictated. But most come bit by bit, teased from memory and feelings and associations. I will place this method in my poetry tool bag for focusing my more elusive inspirations.

One Response

  1. Chris Dahl says:

    Hi Joanne, Do you mind if I use this in the newsletter–attributed, of course! You can e-mail me.


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