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Beloved: Drafting Poems as Letters

Happy Poetry Friday! (Please make sure to pop on over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for this week's roundup!) Today, I'd like to discuss a habit I've had for ... about 15 years? And that is: I start a lot of my poems as letters, and then delete the salutation. I find that the right salutation helps click my brain into the space I need to focus the emotion of my poem. I use this technique the most when I'm writing a poem that has Big Feels-- when I'm casting about for a place to start because the Big Feels are a chaotic miasma, and I can't tease out a beginning that feels right.

My favorite way to start drafting a Big Feels Poem? ...


That's it. Just the one word. But all of a sudden, my brain switches. Now, I'm writing from a place of trying to talk to "Beloved." That one word gives me permission to be vulnerable, kind, and patient with my words. It gives me the safety I need to be as raw as I have to, or as gentle. It gives me permission to write whatever is in my heart, without holding anything back.

The word "Beloved" is deleted from every subsequent draft of my poems. The word has never (to my memory) appeared in any completed version of my poetry. But it's there, in almost everything I write.

Maybe the word "Beloved" will work for you too. Or, maybe you want to try a different salutation all together. But, I invite you to try it. The next time you're casting about for where to begin, begin with a name or salutation. Write your poem from there. Let yourself be surprised by what you write when you're writing to someone specific. Enjoy!


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