Words of Wonder and Wonderful Words: Poetry as Muse

The best way to learn a language is to move where people speak it. The best way to learn to swim is to jump in and get wet. And the best way to get your wordsmithing on is to immerse yourself in poetry.


Poetry is a special kind of reading – it’s words on paper that produce an emotional, sensory experience. Whether it is Shakespearian love sonnets, Frost-y odes to nature, Hughesian societal reflections or Rumi-esque spiritual wisdom, poetry takes us to that place in the mind where words rule, and their meanings intertwine and spark each other. Where ideas are knocked loose and our imaginations begin to take over. In fact, if you’re practicing your free writing and making time for your craft, I’d even go so far as to say that if you add poem a day, it’ll keep the writer’s block away!


Here are a few to get you going!


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.


You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.


People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.


The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.


From Essential Rumi

Translated by Coleman Barks



Playing Banjo


Then put the banjo back in its case.

Close door against the city.


Make a rural sound. Be my key.

Close down the bar. Sing a round.


Let the fiddler be stoned in the alley,

the mandolinist pinball long hours.


Learn over and over. Still the needle,

return to the solo, parcel out headaches.


Pay for the room, measure the silence,

run the notes. Play poorly for family


in your manner. Live far away. Drift.

Love everybody. Sound best alone


in a minor key. Play it right. Turn

your head when you have forgotten


and suddenly a note pierces through

like someone far calling your name.



Run the Red Lights

Copper Canyon Press



Driving in the Rain


This is when the world could end—about three

in the afternoon on a blacktop in Mississippi,

the sky darkening as if conjuring night, black thoughts

flying from the woods like crows or rattlesnakes in the grass,

and in that dark cathedral of clouds a purple god strikes

at the aimless world—trucks hauling potato chips,

children swarming in overgrown yards, grandmothers dreaming of days

in the kitchen, canning peaches or making blackberry

jam while the world goes wild with summer. O take me

away to another shore, a newfound land, my America, sea

of dust washed by the thunder gods, roads so narrow the oaks curl,

make a tunnel like the one between worlds—

the one we see and the one we think we see and the one

hiding behind every tree on the road’s dark bone.



Hanging Loose


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