Sometimes an experience will bring to mind an initial sentence, such as witnessing intoxicated people roaming my downtown neighborhood around two or three A.M. My first line might be: 'This neighborhood has been my home..." At this point, I could be working up a protest piece , a merely descriptive tome, or maybe an insightful narrative.
Keeping in mind the impetus of this poem, it may lend itself towards a possible protest piece with the next line: "A place to grow and thrive." The feelings of these words, and my mindset at the time, quickly dictate which way this poem is heading, and at this point I'm considering possible rhymes to match the meter that is emerging.
Then comes the line, "A thing of fresh vitality..." Ah, now I'm sensing a wistful sentence, such as, "With promise as it's guide." In this poem, I am both writing the poem, and taking dictation from the poem, simultaneously. As I move along the idea, it all starts coming together in bits and pieces. Finding a rhyme that is not forced is key here.
If, at this point, if I start to have trouble finding a perfect or a near rhyme, I might resort to my Thesaurus. I caution here that, though a Thesaurus is a wonderful tool for jogging the mind, it is a cheat to simply pick a word that rhymes, and can easily lead to making obvious forced rhymes that can ruin the poem.
I enjoy letting the lists of related words in the Thesaurus carry me on in encyclopedic fashion, because this often invokes directions I could not have anticipated. When this occurs I might decide to change the meter and/or the rhyme of the poem based on that idea, not just on a word, that will take the poem further, and deeper.
If one line in the poem stands out as above the rest, then it becomes my standard in the piece and I must set to work bringing all the other lines up to that level. Sometimes, this requires that I replace the first line with another of the lines, and etc. This has now become an all consuming puzzle that I am driven to figure out.
Now, back to the poem I was writing, at this point I still don't know how it will end, but I am definitely intrigued. Line by line it is taking shape as I constantly edit the work back and forth between the lines with each new addition. I keep asking: is it still working? Does it make sense? Does anything feel at all forced? Does it ring through?
Even when I've finished a poem I am not entirely sure of it. The work needs to settle for a bit, so I'll set it aside and move on to other activities. When, say, an hour has passed, I'll review it again, asking the same or similar questions of it. I'll show it to someone and wait for their response to it. In this case, I have set it here, below, for you to review:
This neighborhood has been my home
A place to grow and thrive
A thing of fresh vitality
With promise as it's guide.
But now I fear, these past few years,
A creature has arrived,
A savage thing of habits mean
That howls deep in the night.
It acts out with abandon
It's vices, old and new
Well past the Sun's last radiance
In clear and open view.
Would that they might not terry,
But crawl back into their holes
And there reside for all of time
Far from my own abode.