With summer beginning tomorrow in my corner of the world, I find myself thinking about long-ago summer days and some of the friends with whom my childhood summers were shared. The qualities of that sharing are understandably different from the qualities of our adult friendships. Children don’t ask complicated questions, and most live in a more carefree place than adults do.
This week, how about writing a poem to or about a friend from your youth. This friend might be someone with whom you still interact or someone with whom you’re no longer in touch but remember fondly. Dig deeply—remember ... remember—and celebrate!
1. Begin by thinking about the summers of your youth and by selecting one friend from back in the day (not necessarily a child friend, you might choose an adult who was an important part of your long-ago summers, someone you respected and admired).
2. Make two lists: one that details specific memories of your friend (appearance, age, attitudes, typical clothing, etc.) and one that includes particular memories of times spent with that person. Think about thunderstorms, hot days, summer nights, summer stars, summer vacations, day trips, days at the neighborhood park.
3. Begin writing using your lists as source materials. You may limit your memories to one, or you may include several. Just be careful not to clutter your poem with too many details.
4. You might try writing from an adult perspective or from the perspective of your child self. Alternatively, you might writer a letter poem to your old friend.
1. Remember that your memories may be interesting to you, but in a poem you need to work on making connections that will make your poem interesting to anyone who might read it. What are you saying about childhood friendships and feelings that addresses something universal through your personal experience?
2. Try to write in the active, not the passive, voice. To do that, it can be helpful to remove “ing” endings and to write in the present tense (this will also create a greater sense of immediacy).
3. Be on the lookout for prepositional phrases that you might remove (articles & conjunctions too).
4. Avoid clichés and sentimentality.
5. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form and meaning.