Writing a poem can be great medicine. Perhaps you’d like to try a simple format–a list poem.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out––no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
- Read William Stafford’s poem, “Yes.”
- Read it again out loud.
- Underline any words that stand out to you. Think about what draws you to them.
- Make a list of 8-10 things that are challenging for you—things that scare you. They can be very specific: Getting a 1 on a test. Or general: Pandemics.
- Make a list of 8-10 things that you are grateful for. Again, these can be very specific: My mother singing me to sleep. Or general: Cats.
- Choose a line from William Stafford’s poem to start with. If you quote it directly, you will need to credit his poem, obviously, as being your inspiration. You can say something after the title such as “based on a line from William Stafford, ‘Yes’”
- So for instance, you might start with the line: “It could happen you know.” Or perhaps “No guarantees in this life.”
- Then write your list of things that might go wrong. Play with them a little—do you want to repeat one of them? Do you want to be more specific?
- Then TURN the poem. Stafford says, “But, some bonuses.” You can come up with a similar line to indicate that the feel of the poem is about to change. Words that will help: But, However, Though, Nevertheless, Still
- Now finish the poem with images of things that make you grateful.
- You do not need to use your whole list, but those things are there for you if you ever get stuck.
- I am including a poem that I wrote that is basically this format. I used only one challenging thing—the alarm not going off—and then I made a long long list of small gratitudes.
- Feel free to break any rules I just gave you.
- Play with it. See what happens! And share it!
It was one of those days when the alarm
didn’t go off, and we woke anyway
to a world covered in snow, and
by noon the sky was blue. And I drove
right through the construction zone
without being stopped by a flagger.
The tomato for breakfast was ripe
and sharp and sweet. And the tea
was strong and black. The radio
played only songs I wanted to sing.
My car started. I had no flat tires.
I never felt sick. Never fell. More blessings,
it turns out, than a woman can count, though
I try to count them all. And the more
I remember—a good friend called, all
ten fingers are intact, my eyes still
see across the room—yes,
the more blessings I consider, the more
my joy grows until I am dumbfounded,
gobsmacked by gratitude that’s exactly
the size of the known universe, amazed by
how perfectly it fits—as if I were made for this—
right inside my skin.