Gathering the Inspiration
It is a little after 6:00 PM, and I decide to write a poem about the weeping peach tree that sits in the front yard, just outside my bedroom window. It’s April, and the tree is in fully in bloom. Every morning, when I open my blinds and see the crush of bright pink blossoms, I smile. But I know that sooner or later, the blossoms would fall and that would be the end.
So I tramp outside, clutching my floppy-covered diary and my cheap black pen. My goal, for the moment, is to observe and describe. A breeze blows, surprisingly cold, but I’m not here to write about the wind. I walk up to the tree. I stop. I go closer. I step back.
It’s surprisingly hard to describe a tree. What can you say about it? Saying it’s bright pink or even magenta doesn’t sound fancy enough. I want to describe its shape, but—what shape is a tree? I need something poetic. I sit back and think.
A vibrant herald of spring, I write.
Kind of cliché, but at least it sound poetic-y. Poet-y? Poetical? It’s a start. I press on.
It really is amazing how many blossoms are crammed on your branches.
Branches that zig-zag away and then explode like
The finale of a Disney spectacular
It might as well be an audition of ballerinas,
The pink tutu flowers so soft on my face, filling every branch
But with energy!
You are the energy of spring
It seems I’ve gone from trying to describe the tree to personifying it as… a dancer? Well, more like the flowers are dancers. But I’m talking to the tree, I’m addressing it as “you,” so that sort of makes it a person. Maybe.
You are not the pale demure pink of the nearby primroses,
Prim indeed and delicate,
Much like the cherry blossom.
No, your pink is a color of magenta more suited for Crayola colored pencils than nature
Did no one tell you nature should be subtle and demure (like those primroses)?
Oh, I like this last line! This line sounds like it should be the opening of the poem. I put a star by it, to remember to start here when I edit it later on. In a mad rush of inspiration, I scribble.
Not the yellow and orange African Daisies, not the butter yellow and violet lupine, not the clump of orange poppies
Standing proud on mound of the silk tree (which has yet to show leaves and flowers and insists on being nude)
No, you are a thousand ballerinas clamoring for an audition,
A firework finale,
The chaotic energy of spring,
The stealer of bees
No one can see the rough cracks in your bark through
Curtains of flowers
I suppose the long green leaves are gentlemen callers
As I pass through the branches, petals fall—ahh—I know, I know,
You cannot last forever.
This is a limited run,
A show coming to an end
You came in like a circus—one red blossom I saw and then—bam!—everyone!
The entire tree red-pink
Not the primroses blush,
But war paint—
Oh, how I love your gaudy colors every morning—for I know they will not last
Am I repetitive, yes, but I’m actually starting to feel a poem. I’ve got some kind of circus-y, show biz, heavy make-up, stage thing going here. But I think I’ve reached the end of this extended metaphor. So, back to description. I get right up into the branches, gawping at the bark.
The old bark is white,
Rough as paint slapped on by a palette knife
The newest branches are svelte, pale brown and smooth,
Green leaves on the tips,
Tender buds closer to the trunk—they remind me of babies tucked into strollers, somehow
I’m amazed there are flowers yet to bloom.
The young branches cause chaos for they go everywhere at once—but mostly, down
I guess it is youth, then, who weeps, and yet I smile.
I remember that imagery evokes the five senses. I’ve already used sight and touch, I can’t use smell because my sinuses are stuffed up, and I don’t want to use taste. So now it’s time to focus on what I hear.
The wind blows and your branches shake—the wind chimes… chime
(not quite as harsh as a tinkle, a little lower, more melodic, serene—a quiet, gentle sound)
Cars dogs and the swaying sound of grass (not a rustle, different)—bees buzzing—
Oh, I can hear a bit, the shaking rustle as the wind blows, kind of like napkins
Yeah, that went nowhere. Describing sound is even harder than sight. Clearly, I reached my limit on imagery. Besides, the sun is setting and I’m getting cold. I go inside. But I don’t feel like I’m done yet, because even if I described the tree, I didn’t exactly capture the feeling of how happy and grateful I am to see it each morning. So I go back to my room and peer at it through my window.
From inside—it is directly in front of my window. A little to the right, but the whole tree fits almost perfectly in the square box of my window, like a gift.
I’ve seen birds and butterflies and now I’m seeing the light of sunset
Act like a spotlight
(Or maybe my window is a theatre—curtains—stage/sill)
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer in the wind myself, but I finally notice the way the tree shakes in the breeze. No, shake isn’t the right word. Shake implies something dramatic. This isn’t. Almost… but not quite.
A swift wind rattles it like maraca
The young branches twerk nervously in most breezes and shakes half-heartedly at the strongest gale, but it can’t go wild
The trunk, the chaperone, holds it back, the weathered white and gray branches.
All of a sudden, it pops into my head: the tree symbolizes youth. Not all youth. Not the long stretches of childhood that were as boring and full of waiting as adulthood. No, these were the times, in my twenties, when I felt vibrant. When I drank and partied. No, that’s a lie, I never did that. But I felt it! Those intense burst of raucous joy. Didn’t I? I must have. But it’s been so long.
So joyously raucously youthful for these brief few weeks, that suddenly it makes me sad, as I remember my own youth
Was there ever such a time for me? Or was I just a primrose?
Most of the time, I suppose, I was a primrose
But there must have been times I was a peach tree, wild, gaudy, too much, vibrant
Where life flowed through me so much, I thought I must burst with happiness—and I did
A wild, brief joy—
And then it was gone—and I was back in the seasons of content greens and cautious greys
But maybe—and maybe like this peach, it comes in short bursts every year
Maybe there are times I go magenta.
I now have the impulse of a poem. It’s not a poem yet. It’s kind of a mess. But I’ve done my first task, which is gathering words, ideas, and feelings. Now it’s time to set my poem aside and look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow.
* * *
Tips for Writing a First Draft of a Poem
- Find Something The Inspires You
Writing a poem requires feelings, so it is important to choose a subject that stirs your emotions. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is: love, hate, sadness, disgust, gratitude, mild interest. If it moves you, even a little, it’s a start.
2. Observe and Describe
You observe with your five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Sight can further include things like color, shape, and size. But while it is important to be in tuned to your physical surroundings, you should also observe your emotions. What exactly are you feeling? What makes you feel this way? Any time a new emotion springs inside you, write it down, and follow that feeling.
3. Ask, “What Does This Remind Me Of?”
This can help with your description. Can you compare the size to something else, the shape to something else, the color to something else? Get that figurative language in there. When it comes to what you are feeling, does it remind you of another time in your life? Does that feeling evoke an image? The more you can compare and contrast, the clearer the picture gets.
4. Free Write
If you’re really feeling stuck, just start writing. Don’t worry about rhyme or sounding pretty or making sense. Just write whatever comes into your head, without judgment. If you need to, set a timer, and don’t stop for a full minute. It doesn’t matter if 99% is unusable. All that matters is finding that 1% that creates a poem.
5. Play with Structure
If free writing isn’t your thing, do the opposite and try to utilize a time-honored poetic structure. If rhymes are your thing, go for it. If you want something short and to the point, try a haiku. Other forms you might try is an ode, an elegy, an acrostic poem (aka, a name poem), or a concrete poem (aka, a shape poem).
To Be Continued with “How to Write a Poem A Weeping Peach Tree Part 2”
Thanks for reading. Are you planning to write your own poem, maybe for National Poetry Month? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. As an independent author, I’d really appreciate it if you checked out my novels or poems, which you can find them on my website: http://www.rebeccalangstories.com/