Becoming A 10 Minute Poet: A Guest Post by Sherry Howard

Greetings 10MinuteNovelists!      It’s time to become a 10MinutePoet.

All writers are poets.

When we write our prose, we search for just the right word, often searching days for the right form of a verb, or the perfect iteration of a concept.

I realized that I already had poetry in me a year ago when I first explored The University of Iowa’s MOOC on poetry for the first time. I’d enjoyed their fiction writing class so much that I decided to jump into the poetry as well. (Archives have a post on the fiction writing class.) The very skills that serve us so well as fiction writers enhance our skills as poets, and the reverse of that holds true. Our chops as writers are like a braid, when well-woven they create a more solid piece of work.

Becoming A 10 Minute Poet by Sherry Howard

I’ve just begun the 2015 How Writers Write Poetry class and it’s not too late for you to join. More about that in a minute though.

For each class session, there is a video. The videos feature outstanding representatives of whatever concept the class features. The introductory video included the famous poet Robert Haas. This is the information Iowa provides about him:  Awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, twice the National Book Critics’ Circle Award (in 1984 and 1997), the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1973, and the 2014 Wallace Stevens Award, Robert Hass is a professor of English at UC Berkeley. His most recent collection of is The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems.

Everybody loved his presentation—it felt like a conversation with your dad, brother, or favorite uncle, if only they wrote poetry. Robert’s challenge was to look around your setting at that moment in time and write one line about it, then two, then three, and finally four.

Hmmm. It was the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep, so I’d watched the video, and loved it. So, taking his directions quite literally, I looked over and saw my granddaughter, with Bahamian braids, just back from a cruise. This is what I wrote.

Overnight at Nan’s

Sleep denied but not missed

Forbidden popcorn in the bed

Movies, wiggles and pink toes

Impossible to deny tiny braids and bright eyes

Now, if I hadn’t just watched Robert speak I’d not have thought in those lovely terms about the spilled popcorn in my bed that night. And I wouldn’t have attempted to convey a feeling with such economy of words. I’m already getting feedback from readers about how much they love this poem, how gorgeous it is. I’m not bragging, I’m just saying that we fiction writers already have an edge. And one guy said, drop “impossible to deny” and he’s right!

So, take a few minutes right now and look around you. You know the drill: write one line, then two, then three, then four. Please leave your poem in the comments sections so we can enjoy it with you.

Writing Poetry

The other two presenters talked about something all writers I know do– keeping all of those inspirational notes. The emphasis was on collecting them everywhere and often, and then keeping them in a way that helps you be creative. 

If you can’t participate in these classes, it is worth enrolling just to watch the awesome videos. I promise you will find inspiration in many of them. I’m a little disappointed to tell you that the platform for presenting the classes changed this year and it is a much steeper learning curve to navigate the classes. They are being presented via Canvas and Piazza if anyone is familiar with those. Also, new this year, you may get a certificate of completion if you meet certain criteria. That’s been added because, for some people, that was important. The class is free, the certificate is $50 if you meet the standards to earn it.

Click here for the course overview as offered by the University of Iowa.

Sherry Howard is a writer and budding poet and blogs at www.SherryHoward.org

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