Poetry is about listening. To your heart. To the words streaming around you. The hardest part is to let go and be poetic. Take all ideas of form, shape, and poetry that you learned and toss them out. Stop thinking about it and put a Word. On. A. Page.

Poetry is not about success or failure, it's about listening. It's about exploring your own experience of life.

One word or image is all it takes to set your mind in a spiral. You can choose to listen and record or you can ignore the impulse towards beauty or sadness. I guess that's some of the resistance. Poetry is feeling. If you're avoiding feeling things, perhaps it's hard to drop down into the listening mode required to hear the poetic in your life. But if you are shutting out the sadness, in many ways, you are shutting out the happiness as well.

Flights of fancy are always poetic. Love, or the rush of love, is poetic. You feel little nuances all the time. The goal is to tune-in your radio set just a bit more accurately. If you are flooded with stress, activity, inputs (tv, email, facebook) you might have a harder time hearing the beauty around you. And the sadness is around you too.

We are poetic beings. A good percentage of our thoughts are language-based. Words are coursing through you every second, and you are filtering them in a very controlled (subconscious) way. The idea is to tune into the stream just a bit more, and listen *through* the filters to some of the emotional language rushing by. We are trained to filter this "emotional" stuff out. I mean, if we were fully feeling everything we'd collapse at every mention of global injustice, local tragedy, or personal regret. We've got to filter out a lot of emotional language in the course of living productive lives.

As you become a bit more conscious of the poetic language that's coursing through you, try grabbing a few images, or words, here and there. Put them down. Laugh. Throw the poem away.

Poetry is not about success or failure, it's about listening. It's about exploring your own experience of life. It's about tuning into your lifestream and plucking out the emotional bits so you can celebrate *your* human experience. There is no successful poem. There is only resonance or not. The resonance you are looking for is what happens inside of you when you hit a phrase, an expression, a word, that makes you feel that *ah-ha.*

If you feel it, chances are you've captured a slice of the loving/failing/falling human experience. And if you can capture something honest and pure, you don't have to wonder if it's good, if you got it. You'll feel it.

Then you have to let it go.

So much of what represses our poetic impulses is the evaluation and judging of what we've written or created. You want to cut past that need for success, that judging of good or bad. What you want to hear, look for, experience is the feeling of a YES when you capture a moment. If a poem has a big YES for you, that is enough.

Dip your hand in the flowing/coursing of yourself. Pull up an idea, image, sound, to share. And move along.

Sharing poetry is another story. Some people will never get it. Some people cannot hear you. And some will simply not resonate with what you've captured. You're best off, keeping most of your poetic meanderings to yourself. When the poetic storm has become strong in your life, the poems will burst out and at some point you will no longer be able to contain them. At this point, when the coursing rage of language and abstract catch and release process is strong within your life, then… You can share if you know your creative process is not at risk or under review.

A poem either resonates with someone or it doesn't. It's like the book you try to read that feels flat in your twenties but lights up in your forties. If one person lights up in response to one of your poems, you might begin to get a little heady, a little high. I caution you to reflect back to your own experience and your own process. The biggest trap in creative process is to find something successful and then try to repeat it.

Dip your hand in the flowing/coursing of yourself. Pull up an idea, image, sound, to share. And move along. Don't fancy yourself a poet. Imagine this awkward scene at a party.

You're meeting some people for the first time. "Hi John, what do you do in the real world.?"

"I'm a poet."

Imagine the feeling you might get hearing someone claim that title. What's your/their first response. "Oh cool. What have you written."

The only really killer response at that point, the only response that's going to win love, money, and fame is to say, "Well, I've just been chosen as the poet laureate of the United States."

We're all a long way from there, right?

Poetry is very personal and precious. Don't let your self-expression be squelched by others' opinions or reviews. Do you're poetry. If it pleases you, be joyous with that. If it pleases someone else, you've just had an answered prayer.

You can imagine that e. e. cummings had a lot of "what?" responses to his poems. Fortunately he kept going.

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Just keep going.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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