Reno, NV

How I Write Poetry: Poetry as Magic in Reno Nevada

Jenny Justice

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I hesitate to write this because I really like the idea of you all thinking somehow poetry is magic. But then again, maybe it is magic. And yet I am writing this today because it is 1:39 in the afternoon and poetry has not yet come to visit me. And I admit it, there’s panic when that happens. Poetry is supposed to drop by, say hi, and flow from my fingers before 7am in the morning. Where can she be?

Since I’ve started writing daily I have set a bit of a routine for myself. It’s flexible. Things happen. But I do enjoy waking up as early as I can manage, heading into my living room, sitting on my couch and then waiting to see what springs to mind in terms of writing, or poetry, or both. I make coffee. I look around. I think. I write.

This does not always do the trick of course. But it is a routine that brings stability to my practice. And I enjoy routine and stability. But typically, the best poetry comes when you are not sitting down to write and think on purpose. It comes when you are driving, or teaching class, or sleeping, or playing with your kids, or watching a movie, or cooking, or when you are in the middle of something and cannot access a pen, paper, pencil, laptop, phone. This is the stuff that is going to be good. Going to feel good. Going to flow good. This is the magic.

And it is the stuff that makes you work for it. You have to get to a place to write, asap, before it slips away.

I have taken notes, or jotted down general ideas, if I simply cannot stop the world and write that poem when it calls to me. But these things often shift, the words are slippery, the passionate fuel is sort of dimmed by the time I look over my messy handwriting to try to decipher the things I had scrawled in a fit of inspiration.

Last night I was putting my daughter to bed and she had an idea for a story. I was so proud of her. And also torn between the reality that she is ten and it is bedtime. But I did not want to take her moment of creativity away from her. I did not want her to lose her passion, her inspiration. So we wrote for a bit. I tried to find balance as the mom who knows it’s past bedtime and the creative who wants to see another creative grow and thrive and be happy with what she is creating. She wrote a paragraph and then I helped her outline her chapter. I said we would start a bit earlier on this project the next day.

And sometimes that is how it goes with grown-up writing too, with my writing. I have to set things aside if they are not flowing well, or if they are coming to me at an inopportune time.

But mostly the goal of my day, every day, is to write a poem. To feel a poem, rather, and then produce this poem in a way that gives it form and does the inspiration justice.

The how of writing poetry involves being struck down by inspiration and then trying to get to a place and a space to get this poem out onto the page. And then to work with it a bit. Folks think maybe we just write it and that’s that. And sometimes, yes, that can happen. And I love it. I love looking at something that does not need editing. I mean, in my mind, it is perfect. I would not change or add a thing. I have a few poems like this. I treasure them and want to frame them - they are magic to me. How did I do that?

But part of the how of writing typically involves some initial inspiration burst of getting it all out there and then, stepping back, looking at it again, reading it, feeling it, and doing some of that dreaded editing. Addition or subtraction. Moving pieces around. Deciding if it is going to look this way or that way. Poetry is both literature and visual art for me.

It is now 1:56 in the afternoon. Still no poetry. But, this essay is here and that might be all it takes to wake up my brain, get it into poetry gear, sit, wait, feel and see what happens. If this does not work then what many of us poets do is we go off and find a writing prompt, a poetry prompt. Or we read a few good poems by other poets. Or, we think about something else entirely and wait it out.

A poem a day is my goal and my lifestyle. Sometimes I write more than one. Those are really nice and special days. Sam has mentioned that feeling of just needing to write a poem - that feeling of it building up, of it needing to be released. If I do not write a poem in a day, the day feels kind of incomplete. I feel heavy, a bit tense, and have a bit of a temper - impatience! There’s something magical that does actually happen when a poet writes a poem. We feel better. We feel lighter. We feel a sense of accomplishment and creativity.

Writing is a daily art, a daily ritual. Poetry is a daily gift, a daily blessing. I try to not put tons of pressure on myself about it by viewing it as sacred routine, as something that is a joy to be able to do. Because that is what it feels like. That is what it brings into my life. I could learn to be a bit more gentle with myself when days like today happen - when that morning writing time, that morning fresh start poem session, just does not click or spark or bloom, certainly. And I will try to be. Afterall, the seeds are always there, always in me, and I am always striving to both practice and grow, to cherish and embrace, and to be at peace with my creativity - to trust it and allow it to be.

And this is what I will talk to my daughter about tonight, when we sit down together to write her book. Creatives, writers, poets, are creatures who need both structure and freedom. We need routine and ritual. And we need safe places to try, fail, succeed, and grow.

Poetry is magic because it takes the unnoticed and taken for granted stuff of every day of life and transforms it into something like a dove that you can hold in your hands - nothing was there before, now, birds fly freely into the air, and you, and many others, are amazed at the trick.

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For more information on poetry in Reno, and in Nevada, you can check out your local government websites or visit your local libraries, in person or online. I know that Reno has a local poetry slam group and that our local bookstores are holding month long poetry events and celebrations of poetry in honor of April being National Poetry Month.

To celebrate poetry this month you can try writing some. Or you can pick up some poetry at our local bookstores. Or attend the local events in our area that are focused on national poetry month.

Sundance Books has a month long celebration of poetry and poets.

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Jenny Justice is a poet, writer, mother and teacher. She is just a girl in the world, new to town and learning to love this city - Reno, NV. She writes about all things local from food, to fun, to what you need to know to have a good day, good week, or good time in The Biggest Little City. Jenny loves books and will encourage that love of books with her book reviews. She also writes about relationships, dating, parenting, and other topics when the muse moves her. Follow her for good food, good books, and good fun especially in the Biggest Little City in the world.

Reno, NV
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