One Great Way to Write a Poem

I love the whimsy of tweetspeak’s Take Your Poet to Work Day, but since I’m not going to work today (yay for summer vacation!) and since I’m feeling lazy (did I already say summer vacation?) I’m not about to cut out a poet, colour it, glue it on a stick, and take a picture of it (seriously, I mean summer vacation!).

Instead, in honour of today’s Take Your Poet to Work Day, I decided to write a poem using an exercise shared by Al Andrews in a post for Storyline. In “Why It’s Often Better to Say Less,” Al read and re-read a single page from an essay, underlining the significant words, interacting with them, crossing out any unnecessary words, and then seeing what emerged. I loved his example and decided to try it for myself.

Here is a page from a sermon I wrote a couple of years ago called “God grant me patience”—on the left is my sermon, on the right is the same page with the words underlined and crossed out: // One Great Way to Write a Poem
Here’s the poem that emerged:

In Praise of Patience

fast food or slow food?
be patient.
a sprint or a marathon?
be patient.
waiting or working?
be patient.

in Greek
patience is “makrothumeo”
— “long in spirit” —


oh the riches of God’s Kindness!
the Spirit who’s long in spirit with me.

Well as a poem it certainly won’t win any awards, but I love this exercise for the way it helps me focus on key words, and it’s one great way at least to start writing a poem.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: Experiment with this exercise for yourself.


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9 thoughts on “One Great Way to Write a Poem

    1. Yes, it’s a great exercise–you might surprise yourself if you ever give it a try. After all, as poet William Stafford says, “Everyone is born a poet – a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words.”

    1. It’s a pleasure, and thanks for your comment. By the way, I googled take your poet to work day 2012 to see if it’s been done before, but I guess not and I just had to laugh when google gave me results for take your pet to work day πŸ™‚

  1. How hilarious that it’s “Take Your Poet to Work Day”!

    Just this morning, I could feel God waking me up with a poem. I’ll have to share it with you later, April. I actually was tempted to title it “April” because it has a spring/resurrection theme. But funny enough, I was drawn to a title synonymous to “Emmanuel”. I really didn’t plan either of those themes; funny how they fit togther :-).

    In fact, this morning I was so struck by how it can seem that God is writing something to me as I’m writing a poem [but no, I don’t do that weird automatic writing thing πŸ™‚ ]. Amazing (sometimes astounding) meanings at times come out that I really never could have planned. I’m not saying it’s really about me at all, but that God can write amazing poetry through us. I believe that poetry can be a very prophetic language; a gracious gift from God to little us.

    Your Patience poem has such beautiful simplicity. The form of it inspires me.

    I think of the Spirit’s fruits. I think of the beauty and gentleness of God.

    1. Oh yes please, do share your poem with me.
      I love your description of poetry as a gracious gift πŸ™‚
      Your comment about form reminds me of Betty Warland’s book, “Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing” where she talks about “scoring” as the way words are placed on a page. For this poem, scoring it as a longish poem with (relatively) shorter lines reflects patience as long in spirit.

  2. This is a fantastic exercise! I’m in the midst of writing a book, a sort of spiritual memoir of early parenting, and I get frustrated when I slip into God-speak, the theological terms that means lots to us in the business but glaze over the eyes of most readers. I’m inspired to try this with a few troublesome chapters…thank you!

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