Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! So how do you generate a good starting idea? First, you need a menu—you need to be aware of your choices. Ask yourself this question:
Click to share on Pocket Opens in new window I remember sitting in my student apartment in New York City, nearly 20 years ago now, writing the first words of yet another poem about my mother.
I was grieving, having only just lost her a year and a half before. All of my poems at that time were about my mother, but this poem would be different.
How could I get words to do something so unlikely, so impossible? I had spent so much time writing about my mother as gone, as a ghost returning to me in dreams, as an absence and a loss, and none of that had gotten me where I wanted to be.
So I adopted a different approach. I started from where I was, from the very room in which I sat, and wrote out from that urge. Eventually, I found myself remembering a very small scene from my childhood: Years ago during a storm, Article continues after advertisement I knelt before the open side Of a blue and white miniature house, Moving the dolls from room to room While you added kindling to the fire.
Article continues after advertisement It was less than a scene. Merely a snapshot of a memory. There was nothing more to it, no event moving that action forward. Maybe the story was poignant because of how simple it was: Maybe it was poignant because of the stark contrast it marked between the then of the scene and the now in which I was writing the poem, a now marked by grief.
A poem is often concerned less with telling a story than it is with perspective, disturbance, the irresistible allure of what sits barely decipherable in the distance.
A poem soars over the landscape of memory like a bird of prey. When it sees something living, something with heat and texture and blood in its veins, it dives down and lifts the thing up, disappearing.
Then the poem becomes something else: In my poem, just then, I was perhaps the prey that would soon be caught up and lifted off by what swooped down from overhead like a shadow. It is true that death resists the present tense. But memory does death one better. It has given me the ability to sink very deeply and hungrily into a single image, to take from it what it seems to offer, and then to depart, in pursuit of other points of view that are far-flung, intimate and subjective—and that might work together to invoke or illuminate… well, something.
Often, that something is difficult to fit into words. Often it is a feeling, a pang, a visceral certainty that defies easy classification. We sat in that room until the wood was spent. We never left the room. The wood was never spent. The large unity we think of as a poem is actually many small things happening one after another.
But if a poem conjures a place or an event by moving quickly through space and time, by adopting shifting perspectives, by speaking indirectly, by using images possessed of their own visceral power, then prose might do something of the reverse, building a sense of place or time by adopting a more steady view, by holding still until these many different and disparate details and feelings accrue.
If this is true at least some of the time, perhaps on such occasions it might also be true to characterize poetry as insistent in its vision: On those occasions, perhaps it is equally true to describe prose as persistent in its manner of vision.
Perhaps it is the long lingering gaze that allows detail and insight to gradually emerge. Years later, in returning to the subject of my mother in my memoir, Ordinary Light, I was drawn to the genre of prose because I sought a more all-encompassing and continuous view of material that I had lived through episodically, taking in one thing at a time, missing a great deal of the central action, or catching it, but failing to ask the right things of it in the moment.
I wanted to take in my lifetime with her slowly, to dwell upon it until I had the ability to say what I had never known was in need of being said, or to reclaim what I needed to take away with me from that time. My first steps into the world of my memoir were small ones. At first, my instincts were still set to the demands of a poem; instead of narrating stories, I wanted to populate my scenes with concrete images, let them do the work, and then high tail it out of there.
But the prose was stubborn. Sit still, it told me.You can spend an afternoon writing a memoir about your favorite childhood pet, or you could begin to keep a journal where describe the events of your day, the weather, the books you are reading, or television shows you like to watch.
More on How to Write a Memoir 59 Memoir Ideas - 59 memoir writing topics and 3 memoir prompts that will get you inspired to write about your life experiences. Memoir Prompts - A list of questions and topics to inspire writing about your memories.
You can use these prompts for journaling and to . Great post, Amber. I love your poem, especially the line, “can a heart shake”‘. Most often my poetry is based in memoir. I start by scribbling a paragraph or two in my journal, and since poetry is my favorite genre, I take words and phrases from the paragraphs.
From there I use the word associations you mention and pull in more thoughts. If you do that, the reader will look forward to hearing more of what you have to say. 4. LAY A FOUNDATION FOR THE REST OF YOUR STORY The start is not just the first thing you say—it’s a foundation the rest of the book or chapter will be built on.
What you need is the beginning of a structure that can support what’s to follow. List of Memoir Poems. Note: The forms for these poems were selected by the poet. Often poems are assigned the wrong form.
Please confirm the accuracy of the poetic form before referencing the poem. How to Write Your Memoir 1. Write memoir, not autobiography. An autobiography is the story of an entire life, 2. Diagram your life. Some people have one burning story to tell. 3. Don’t begin at the beginning.
Don’t tell your story chronologically. That’s too predictable. 4. Use all your senses. The best writers create vivid new worlds.