My first poem

Recently, I wrote a poem.

For many people, this is not a big deal. For me, it’s the first I’ve written in a long, long time. Seriously, it’s my first since I was writing poems about listening to Lisa Loeb while crying over boys. (I also wrote one about a thunderstorm when I was in high school, but it contained the line “antithesis of justice and peace.” Yeah, I was a cool seventeen-year-old.)

I named the poem “My first poem.” Obviously this is a working title.

I do not know what to do with this poem. I hear one submits poems in much the same way that one submits stories (i.e., research some publications, submit, wait, wait, wait, try not to cry over the rejections, resubmit, etc.), but poets also get to do different things, like submitting multiple poems at one time. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a poem called “My second poem.” I’m averaging about one poem every ten years right now, so I figure I’ll have a submission packet ready in thirty to fifty years.

I’ve showed my poem to one person. She liked it, but said the structure was very fiction writer. I don’t know what that means. What I do know is that line breaks are hard. I also didn’t capitalize the beginning of every line. I think I should get some sort of fiction-writer bonus points for this.

I don’t know what I think of my poem. When I worked with Willow Springs, the poems I liked most were the ones that got rejected fastest. I don’t know much about poetry. Poets often tell me I need to stop trying to “get” it, but I’m not sure what the opposite of “getting” it would be. Not getting it?

I was too afraid to take a poetry class in grad school, but I’ve been reading it since I left. My favorite collection so far has been one by Jacek Gutorow. It had been translated from the original Polish, and each poem was presented in both languages. I admit to spending almost as much time trying to learn a few Polish words as I did actually reading the poems. The author had also taken the opportunity to perform a few more edits, and I also amused myself trying to identify what they were. Okay, so maybe I liked the puzzle aspect of that collection as much as the poetry. It was, however, hearing a poem read aloud that prompted me to write my own poem.

Since I wrote this poem, I have worked exclusively on my fiction. I don’t feel any different, except I do like seeing a Poems subfolder in my larger Writing folder on my computer. It’s like I’m a secret poet, like I’ve snuck into a club to which I don’t belong.


  • Anna says:

    I wrote a poem last week for the first time since college, and the poems I wrote then were just jokes. I don’t know anything about poetry but I liked writing it. No idea what to do next. Maybe try another?

  • Pendragon says:

    I wrote a poem, once, that I was proud of. Most people I showed it to ‘liked it’ but I guess the difference becomes when someone ‘likes it’ and is willing to ‘pay to like it’. Publishers and people get paid a lot of money to know the difference between the two, and I guess getting it ‘wrong’ for them equates to less money down the road. But to think that you’ll always know what people will like is audacious, albeit a hard, hard job to have. One of my favorite recent writers, Patrick Rothfuss of ‘Name of the Wind’, had to go through hell’s own gates to get published.. and has since become a huge hit in the fantasy genre his book aimed for.

    I guess what I mean is: keep trying. I know so many people who say they want to write ‘stuff that somebody will like’, and their content is never, ever good when they do that. Write for yourself, try to get published because of your pride, and if someone agrees with you, the hot dog wonderful!

    • Kathryn says:

      I don’t think I try to write stuff other people will like, but the ultimate goal is to still have work that is accepted into a larger body, and into a larger idea of what makes work good. Obviously this is a very elastic thing.

      I’m a fiction writer, and I’ve written tons of stuff that I’m fairly certain other people won’t like (and that I’m even more certain other people won’t pay for, which I tend to think of as a completely different issue), but the thing that really makes me stop writing is when I don’t like what I’m producing. I figure if it bores me, it will bore other people, too. The problem is, I’ve developed this general sensibility in fiction—I don’t have it in poetry. At least not right now.

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    Yeah! Keep doing it! Seriously.
    I honestly think anyone who writes can also write poetry. Even if you’re a prose writer. Because there are prose poems. Neat-o!
    Don’t get bogged down in worrying about the “right” or “wrong” way, or in where to break lines…just write as a fun exercise.
    The main thing is to ignore the voice that might try to tell you you have no idea what you’re doing. You know more than you think you do.

    • Kathryn says:

      I want to print that on a sign and hang it up right above my computer. You know more than you think you do…you know more than you think you do…

  • Amaris says:

    I would venture a guess that writing a poem considered “very fiction writer” is a good thing. It means that you’ve written a poem with a clear narrative where cause and effect extend into a metaphor that ties the piece together. To have written a poem that reads like nice short story is a good thing. If you had written a poem that tried too hard to be a poem, I’m sure she would have given you a different comment.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    This seems like good news. And maybe you don’t have to do anything with it right now. See what happens if you write another one, and maybe two or three more after that. Maybe have ten or so before you even think about sending out. Just you and the poems for now.

    • Kathryn says:

      It actually is a bit liberating to know so little about poetry, because I can use my ignorance as a kind of a shield. If it doesn’t work, well, that’s what I expected. If it does work, it’s this wonderful bonus.

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