Making the Intangible

I’ve been spending this week working on my collection of poetry. I’m working to get everything edited and ready for submission with my application for the MFA programs I want to apply to. So I thought why not do a blog post about my process for creating and editing my poetry. I’d love to hear how you create and then edit your poetry as well.


Usually a poem starts with a phrase or a concept. For instance I have several poems have started after I read a news article and was struck by it. Other poems have started based on a phrase popping into my head (Onus began this way) and then growing out of that. It’s hard to explain where ‘inspiration’ comes from but usually this is where a poem comes from for me. Occasionally I do use pictures or a prompt to get me started but these are rare.

To help with the creation process I keep a small notebook with me at all times. Just as an example here of some of the things in my little notebook:

The Porco Murders (google only if you have a love of murder cases. Not pretty.)


Misty Waters


Moon Whale

And those are some of the ideas that I am beginning to work on. This notebook is usually where my poems begin.


When I start editing on a poem, I first read it to myself silently. Then I read it aloud, then I read it aloud again focusing on all of the line breaks, pauses and small details in the poem. I make sure that I read the poem as it is written because that’s often very different from how I want it to sound. I mark any areas where I stumbled, or had issue with how something sounded.

Then I dive into the meaning of the poem. What is this poem about? This is usually the hardest part, but I think it’s most important as well because poems have to be more than floating pretty words. I always remember what a mentor told me, “Always be a ghost hunter. What is the ghost of the poem?’

So I get on my ghost buster pants and wade through the ectoplasm of the poem until I find that ghost. Then I’m ready to take the ghost with the sounds and work towards re-crafting the entire poem into something more tangible.

In the end that’s what I try to do with my poetry, is turn something intangible ( a feeling, an idea, a thought) into something that you feel like you can reach out and touch.

How do you go about creating and perfecting your poems? Go on comment. Yes, you there. I see you trying to read on by and pretend I don’t see you there. Oh I see you. Now go on and comment and tell me how you work on your poems?



  1. Loved this post! Congrats to you on editing your work. It is a challenge to assemble a manuscript, certainly!

    I’m like you in the small notebook. Most of my poetry comes from what I do during the day. At my blog, The Storialist, I write and post a poem every weekday–it has been invaluable to me in taking myself more seriously.

    • Judy Black Said:

      Editing is a HUGE challenge. I always struggle with getting those words just right. One Shot Wednesday has really helped me start working so that I have a poem to post once a week! I bet that putting up a poem day keeps you super focused, what an awesome idea!!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hannah Stephenson. Hannah Stephenson said: Great post on process. RT @judyblackcloud Making the Intangible: How do you create, edit and make your poetry? […]

  3. Excellent article!” I have a notebook too, i also have a big folder full of ideas that i can dip into. The process of creating a poem can vary though, depending on what type of poem it is, I write a lot of haiku for example, which really I just write at the moment and then polish. I write ghazals too, where my process really involves writing down lots of rhymes and working out how they could fit together with a chosen repeating word. Then I write a load of couplets using the repeating word and the rhymes. As each couplet is independent i can continue this process over a few days if I want. If I’m writing in free verse the poem can take a very long time unless I’ve got a deadline.

    • Judy Black Said:

      Oh wow, the ghazals sound like a lot of work and focus. What an interesting form to work with. I really struggle with working within forms.
      I love my little notebook, it’s great to flip through when I’m stuck on something. It’s my little black book for sure! Thanks for the comment!

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