On Becoming a Poet


Someone asked me when I started writing poems.

Growing up in the summers my mom would make us "charts." We did them everyday of the summer, and got paid $2 per day, totaling $10 a week. Everyday there were constants: Practice the piano, practice the violin, read 40 minutes, play a game with your sisters, ride around the block three times." And then everyday there was a bonus job. Sometimes they were crazy things like, "Drink 6 glasses of water," which, to a 10 year old meant waiting until 10:00 pm, sitting down with the smallest cup, and drinking until you felt sick. Sometimes it said, "Ask mom for a chore," or "Learn 10 new facts." But my favorites, the bonuses - were ones that said, "Write a poem about rainbows." "Write a story about a girl who lost her dog." "Write a poem about fireflies."

Those prompts were the most delicious part of my day. I would brainstorm all day about the colors of the rainbow and approach my mom with questions like, "What rhymes with Indigo?" (RIP Indigo) or, "Is there a length requirement?" Summer charts showed me that making words fit together so nice and neat was my way of organizing. Organizing my thoughts, my energy, my imagination into this little set of words that told a story, or stimulated images or made you happy.

In school there is always a sort of competition that goes along with writing poetry. Whose is longest? Or, whose rhymes best? But I feel like poetry was never given the proper attention it deserved at school. What was left out (at least of my curriculum) was that poetry was supposed to make you feel something. Anger, bliss, melancholy. Anything.

I am not a professional poet, and maybe I never will be. But you have to start somewhere. And I started on fresh summer mornings, while I rode my bike around the block, or played scales on the piano, or ran through the sprinklers. In that dry, summer heat I thought about yellow, orange, indigo... and what would come next. And those thoughts never really stopped.

And that, my friends is how a poet is born.
(or at least a poet hopeful.)

photo via


kara lynn said...

all your writing is like a poem.
so free and mature and simple and "airy" in all the good ways!

i will miss your lovely blog while i am on my mission!

L!$@ said...

Your mum is one smart woman! :D What an awesome idea for kids to do all those little things :D

Nathan Brough said...

My favorite part was "RIP indigo". I laughed a lot. =)

I feel like photos are similar! Lots of times it's "which one is the sharpest?" or "who's is the coolest?", but I know that the best photographs make you feel something, deep down inside, very powerfully, and the feeling doesn't go away. You feel what the photographer felt, and you might not even know their name.

Thank you for this post, it was a wonderful one

emmakaren said...

This is what Poetry is to me, too. Sadly, I didn't fully realize it until this year. I love this, so very much.

Brittany said...

haha I had "charts" too!

I love how poetic you are. You truly do inspire me.

Griffin and Gretchen said...

you are very poetic.
what a clever mom!

Ana* said...

Sounds like you had a very structured childhood. You're a great writer.

Callie said...

Beautiful Mandy. You have such a way with words and telling stories, I agree that all your writing is like a poem. Your blog is the most beautiful blog of all the blogs!!!

M. said...

that's beautiful!
thanks for sharing.


Kate said...

I agree with these other girls!
Even your blog posts sound like poetry.

Kimberly Geneviève said...

You always take my breath away. Your words are simple+beautiful. To me, you are a poet.