View Full Version : My Method for Creating a First Draft Poem And Increasing Vocabulary Simultaneously

Don V Standeford
December 17th, 2012, 12:27 PM

So you want to write a poem, but your vocabulary sucks. Of course we all should be expanding our knowledge of the meaning and spelling and connotation of words. It’s an ongoing discipline for me. And I think writing anything, articles, essays, fiction, poetry, should be a learning experience as well as a productive experience. In this article I will try to reveal one of my methods for writing a first draft poem while at the same time learning about words in the English language. You’ll need three seventy page notebooks to write in, maybe a few pens, and internet.

1. Time Yourself. Take out your first seventy page notebook and write on front “10 Minutes A Day.” Put the date on the first page, get out a pen or pencil, and start free-writing. It’s important when free-writing in your journal to time yourself either with an egg timer or just looking at your watch. This is because it puts your left brain’s focus on the time you have left, since the left brain is always worried about such important things as being on time. So the right brain, whose focus is on creativity, can sneak in, take hold of your pen, and write creatively. Keep to a ten minute a day free write, stopping promptly when your time is up, will allow you to access the most powerfully creative part of your mind.

2. Analyze Your Mind. When you get your seventy page notebook filled with writings of ten minutes a day, this is your mind on paper. Start on page one and peruse back through your own words, circling the words or phrases that stand out on the page. That’s you talking to yourself. Look for a pattern to jump out at you from these words, a thread of thematic imagery, emotion, philosophy or any other type of color or mood or energy. Underline sections in your ten minutes a day notebook that might actually already be close to first draft poems. In a seventy page free writing notebook you might have two or three of these.

3. Google You. Now that you have an idea of what’s been on your mind the last two weeks, type some of these words you circled into the Google search engine and start researching them. Use notebook number two to jot down notes on your research. Wikipedia is a good place to start this researching, because when you’re reading an article on Wikipedia you can click on many of the hard to understand words to find out what they mean. And then you can click on more links in that article that will take you to another article…it’s a real word-fest. I’ve stayed on internet for hours researching simple subjects and come out feeling more aware when I’m done. The internet is a great equalizer.

4. Translate You. Now that you are familiar with your own thoughts over the past weeks and have added to your knowledge of these facts on internet, so you’re ready to translate the result into poetically charged lines and words. Place your ten minutes a day notebook and your research notebook near you, take out notebook number three, and start interpreting the first two notebooks into the third. It is a little more simple than it may seem. Read a few thoughts from your ten minutes a day notebook, and jot down a line or two of rhyme. Use those two notebooks to stimulate your imagination, and have fun writing. Write whatever stupid things you want. Let it be raunchy, nonsensical, emotional, intellectual, anything you at the moment you’re writing want it to be. This is not a time for second guessing yourself. No one need see this notebook but you, or a whole world if you become famous and they print it posthumously.

5. A Look At My Mind. I want you to know what you’re doing in this third notebook is just interpreting all your previous ideas into poetic mumbo jumbo. You’re not trying to write a polished poem, or even a draft. Try out different rhythms, meter, thematic influences, sentence structures, word intensity. Let the poem grow from the first two notebooks into a pile of poetic nervous intensity to use for first draft. And now I’ll give you an example of how this process works for me:

Notebook 1: “The ceiling fan winds its hands like an out of control clock. Blows its wind like time travels somewhere. HG Wells would’ve added his machine, to travel to another century, if only he could see us now.”

Notebook 2: I circle ceiling “fan” and “HG Wells” and “time travel.” Now I research these words on Wikipedia. Under ceiling fans I see some are named “Hunter, Minka, Litex, Allen.” For HG Wells I see, “War of the Worlds and Warehouse 13.” I jot down these notes in my second notebook and go in research mode.

Notebook 3: Now my I put in my third notebook, “The Hunter fan winds round and round / on steel ball bearings/ a trip into the past/”Minka, Litex, Allen,” it breathes its wind into your future; the world will be at war/ life won’t be a science fiction show/ a bad luck story like warehouse 13/ Minka, Litex, better than all the rest/ 13, the number of your name/ Lika…”

(Just have fun with words, expressing these concepts you’ve studied in verse form. Try to get a feel for the words your subconscious mind has jotted down and your conscious mind has researched. Your third notebook now combines the ten minute a day notebook and your research notebook in a staggered and overdone, overwritten verse.)

6. Divide: Divide the third notebook into poem sized chunks of about one or two pages each. Name each section with a number, 1, 2,3, etc. until you get through the whole notebook. When you finish choose one of these sections to finish as a poem. When you’ve chosen that section, now go over it and find what the topic is. Here’s my example again:

7. Conquer: Now you’ve divided your notebook into poem sized chunks. You’re ready to conquer each section one at a time. In my example I choose section 22 in my third notebook as a basis for my poem. But instead of just going straight in and making it into a poem, I create an idea and outline for the poem first using as a source section 22 in notebook 3.

Section 22:

Topic: the spinning of a ceiling fan. Science fiction. Time travel.

Theme: smooth whirring of winds of time, dreaming, and mesmerizing buzz of motor and soothing fan.

Voice: that of a philosopher talking to a student. Should be fluent, descriptive, and knowledgeable.

Epiphany: the machine age is upon us, overwhelming us with its fast pace.

8. First Draft. Here’s the first draft of my poem:

“Hunter fan


like a crazy clock,

transporting me

to kingdom come,

Steel greased balls

spin, gather me up,

gather Earth,

anka, lotec, machines, alien,

breathe, spin sounds of war,

not a sci-fi pic, bad luck,

too late, you picked

unlucky 13,

And countdown begins, “12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7…”

The end will blow you to –

Kingdom Come,

Mantra, Lotel, Esop,

Round and round your

past is gone,

the machine age

is upon you… ”


9. Finally. My first draft poem needs much work, but it is a start. I can read back into notebook 1, 2 or 3 anytime I want if I want a refresher for my second draft. Or I can just rewrite it from my head. This is a good way to get a start into not only learning but writing too.