How is poetry made?

Asked by: I., Prague, Czechia

Answered by: Kazim Ali

I., Prague, Czechia

In recent years I have been struck by a wondrous amazement for the poetry that can move me. Unlike any of the media I’ve mentioned above I have not the slightest clue how it achieves its works, and yet certain poems are able to wring water out of stone. I have begun to seek out more and more poetry, though it remains rare that I find something that strikes me. The last time I remember this happening was the morning after the Uvalde shooting. I yearn deeply to understand at least the process by which poetry is made, in hopes I may be able to…I’m not sure…do something? Write with greater confidence? Try more? I’ve seen many examples of art examining its own media — film examining the process of film-making, art depicting artists, music about the life of a musician. Is there any good poetry that sheds light on the process of writing poetry?


It’s funny because I think every poem is a poem about how to write poetry. Each is a way of building perceptions through language.

Emily Dickinson’s Poem #466 is one I turn to very often in my own writing practice:

I dwell in Possibility – (466)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

-Emily Dickinson

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