Thursday, April 4, 2013

National Poetry Month: Guest Blogger Barbara Ann Yoder

Thank you to Barbara Ann Yoder for today's post about memory and writing. Barbara Ann Yoder is a writer, editor, teacher, and coach. She explores writing as a transformative art on her blog.

How to Write When You Don’t Remember

Once, in the not-too-distant past, I encountered a poem in which almost every line began with the word “how.” I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember the name of the poem or where I heard or read the poem or which poet wrote it. All I know is that the poem moved me and stayed with me and nudged me into a new way of writing.

I began a journal entry with a particular subject and the word “how” and wrote a few lines.

How I followed her everywhere.
How she bent down to tie my shoes.
How she held my hand when we went out together.
How we swung our hands in rhythm as we walked.

I wrote without thinking, closed my eyes and typed how this, how that, received image after image, scene after scene, page after page, one thought leading to the next, without much effort on my part, and in this way discovered that the word “how” could be a doorway into a sensual experience of memory.

An hour later, having generated enough material to begin an essay . . . or a collection of essays . . . or perhaps even some poems, though I have not written much poetry since I began to explore writing in my teens . . . I arrived at these sentences:

How I will add to this document as ideas come to me.
How I will choose a sentence or two and explore the ideas and memories in them more deeply.
How I can create a writing exercise out of this approach.
How lovely it is to make new discoveries about writing.

All of this from a single poem whose name and whose author I mean to remember one day!


Julie said...

I really like this post -- the idea of working with "how" in that way sounds intriguing, and a good way to approach something differently. I'm rather looking forward to trying this on my own.

Thanks for posting this.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


Thanks for the joyful reminder that one can approach poetry one word at a time...whether as one engages with an existing poem or one sets out to write one. What a gentle and inspiring exercise to try...

Chloe Yelena Miller said...

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Barbara Ann Yoder said...

Thanks, Julie and Tania. I hope you have fun with this exercise and that it opens up memories and images for you.

Thanks, Chloe, for giving me the opportunity to guest post on your site. I'm enjoying your posts and all the guest posts! It's a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Judy Anderson said...


This is a beautiful reminder of the power of memory and words that awaken it. Your post launched a memoir poem. Thank you!

Barbara Ann Yoder said...

Thank you, Judy. I'm so glad that this post launched a poem. I look forward to reading it! Happy writing.