We brought our bad poetry

I like to connect with people online, but there’s something to be said for gathering together in one room and talking about writing. That’s what I did yesterday.  I hosted an event called bring your bad poetry. The guests ran the gamut from published writers to those just starting on their creative journey. Most of us focus on other genres, not poetry, so I thought this would be a way to get things started without being too serious or feeling too much pressure.

I read this poem to get the juices flowing:

Song of the Wrong Response  

Stephen Dobyns

The poem is bare-chested, black and

shadowboxing beneath a streetlight.

In the rest of the city it is dark.

You’re out walking your dog. Nervously,

you circle the poem. It turns toward you

and speaks of a disease of the heart,

perhaps anger. You can’t make out the words.

Never have you seen a face so ugly. Then

it steps toward you and swings. You jump.

Still it strikes you once above the heart.

On the sidewalk your dog is asleep. The poem

returns to shadowboxing. You are that exciting.

Once home, you phone the proper authorities.

Then I arrive and you describe the attack

All next day you look at mugs shots before finding

the right picture: a young man with some flowers.

This, I say, is a poem about love and

the difficulties of friendship. It is about

reaching out in dark places. The poem

touched you above the heart and you fled.

What happened in fact, you have forgotten.

What happened in memory will repeat itself and

each time you will act falsely and be afraid.


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Some of the participants had brought their own poetry or favorites that other had written. We read these aloud. I know how powerful listening to poetry (any story or writing, for that matter) can be, but I don’t do it often enough and I’m still always taken aback by the experience. I had chosen part of a writing exercise from Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge‘s book poemcrazy. I had a roll of raffle tickets from our local party supply store and we all submitted ten tickets with random words written on them and mixed them together in a heap. We then chose a number of tickets and used them to write for ten minutes on the topic of our real names using the following sentence starters.

My real name is…

Yesterday my name was…

Tomorrow my name will be…

In my dream my name was…

My husband/mother/son/boss/etc. thinks my name is…

There are a couple of beautiful examples in Susan’s book (p. 36) and when we completed this activity, we read the results aloud. We did this twice and it was clear that it became easier as the group became more comfortable with each other.

Here’s one of mine:

My real name is not conviction.

I have no idea where I’m going

or what I’m going to do next.

Tomorrow my name will be

yet another surprise.

I wish my name were sweeter,

like a belly full of candy

or a tree of cherry blossoms

thirsty for rain.


I am overwhelmed by the poetry that this group produced. It takes an incredible amount of courage to share your writing with others. I am truly honored that these people have entrusted me with their work and creative processes.

I know all of these writers personally or professionally and therefore, I am privy to bits and pieces of their lives and stories. I know the woman with two small children who works full-time. She yearns to write poetry but hasn’t done so in years because she just can’t seem to find the time. There is the woman who outwardly looks to have a perfect life, but due to the death of someone close to her, deals with grief on a daily basis. She also wants to write. Maybe she needs to write. There is a man who wrote his first book after he was seventy. I could go on.

Of the nine of us sitting in that room, not one of us makes a living from creative writing, yet we do it anyway. We know that the odds are stacked against us. We realize that becoming the next NYT bestselling author is akin to waking up and finding out that we are suddenly Beyonce. Not likely to happen. We work jobs all day long to pay the bills and then we carve out time from our busy lives to write. We wake up in the middle of the night with an incredible idea for a story, then can’t remember what it was in the morning. We love our families, but crave one more hour alone to write.

Today was the start of a monthly event and I’m looking forward to growing as a writer.  I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, by the way, there was a raffle. Rene Mullen won and will be receiving his very own copy of Velocities by Stephen Dobyns. Rene is a wonderfully talented writer and he wrote a blog post about our event todayVisit him and see for yourself. Here is a poem he wrote today:

This is That

Rene Mullen
My real name is That.

Under my husk is something other than That: This.

This is Them. This is You. This is Him and Her.

This is anything but me.

This is what muscles under That.

That, being This: my willful self,

my inside voice,

my internal sunshine.

This is That.

I’ll leave you with one last poem. This one is mine and was previously published at Yes, Poetry.

Egg Salad

Robin Kalinich

It’s not normal

to cry over an egg salad sandwich.

You don’t need to tell me this.

I remember watching his tattoo

as he cracked five eggs,

each shell shattering itself

again and again

on the tips of  his fingers.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt.

I had red lipstick and cleavage,

both a little too much in the bright

light of the kitchen.

We were still drunk

with the power of youth,

and didn’t even suspect

the devastation to come.

There was no way to see

the son,

the daughter,

waiting quietly beneath his skin.

There was only my awareness

of his stark beauty and the fact

that I’d never before eaten

egg salad,

which astonished him

beyond measure.

This astonishment explains why

we two left the party,

boiled water in a stranger’s kitchen,

then spent the next seven years

loving each other almost to pieces.

In case you’re wondering –

no, it wouldn’t work out.

But every time I have egg salad

I see him there,

and cry over those five dead chickens.


The art in my blog posts is usually that of an Ink & Alchemy Featured Artist. Today is different. This is my art. I’ve been allowing myself loads of creative freedom in my studio and the idea of that – stretching and pushing creatively – seems to fit perfectly with the my hopes for this new writing adventure. I hope you like it.
Have a beautiful week!  Stop by and visit when you can.

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