Writing Goals: Poetry Addition

April was National Poetry Month. So, of course, on my Facebook page, I posted a poem or two a day. And, inspired by all the poetry I was posting, I tried to write more poems than I usually do.

Now that April’s over, I want to continue pushing myself to write poetry. I’ve written in the past how deadlines work really well for me when it comes to writing, but how arbitrary ones, not attached to a literary journal’s deadline, kinda never seem to have the same effect on my writing.

My new goal is to write two poems a week. Is that doable? Maybe. I’m older and more mature now, so maybe I’ll be able to hold myself to my writing goals. But there are a few other tricks I’m using to motivate myself to keep my writing goals.

First and foremost, I’m telling all of you about my goal. When other people, like my co-blogger Melanie, know about my goals and can ask me about them, I tend to do better at holding myself accountable for my goals. So I’ve told her, and you, that I plan on writing two poems a week and now there’s an expectation that I will be writing two poems a week.

A friend of mine is pushing me to apply to an MFA/Ph.D. program, and I know that the literary greats from the Early Modern period and beyond like William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton, just to name a few, all learned their craft by writing every poetic form they could. These men all wrote sonnets, plays, and epic poems to perfect their craft. If I want to study their literature, it only adds to my understanding of their work to write it and experience it for myself. And that means writing everything – from a sonnet sequence to an epithalamium.

Plus, I just plain old like poetry, and writing poetry is a way of expressing that like. Sometimes I make up my own patterns, or I follow a preset pattern like an ode or a haiku, or sometimes I write poems in response to other poems.

Maya Angelou, for example, wrote this poem, Caged Bird:

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

In 1900, Arthur J. Lamb and Harry Von Tilzer wrote a ballad called A Bird in a Gilded Cage which became a popular song and an idiomatic phrase today.

The ball-room was filled with fashions throng,
It shone with a thousand lights,
And there was a woman who passed along,
The fairest of all the sights,
A girl to her lover then softly sighed,
There’s riches at her command;
But she married for wealth, not for love he cried,
Though she lives in a mansion grand.


She’s only a bird in a gilded cage,
A beautiful sight to see,
You may think she’s happy and free from care,
She’s not, though she seems to be,
‘Tis sad when you think of her wasted life,
For youth cannot mate with age,
And her beauty was sold,
For an old man’s gold,
She’s a bird in a gilded cage.

I stood in a church-yard just at eve’,
When sunset adorned the west,
And looked at the people who’d come to grieve,
For loved ones now laid at rest,
A tall marble monument marked the grave,
Of one who’d been fashion’s queen,
And I thought she is happier here at rest,
Than to have people say when seen.

Because I’m a fan of these two things, and a feminist, I’ve been working on my own poem that is referential to these two poems and tries to embody the modern woman – a woman who is, statistically, less likely to marry and have kids. Here’s my poem, Song of the Free Bird:

He used to promise me a diamond ring
And a white picket fence
With a little bird-bath
Hiding in the back
So I could hear uncaged birds sing
While I sat in my gilded cage

He used to promise me loyalty
And all of his honesty
With no little white lies
Hiding him from me
So I could feed off his sincerity
While I sat in my gilded cage

He used to promise me a dream
And a life filled with glee
With a little oven
Hiding in the kitchen
So I could smell like home
While I sat in my gilded cage

He used to promise me laughter
And a house turned into a home
With pairs of little feet
Hiding under their beds
So I could feel forever loved
While I sat in my gilded cage

He used to promise me everything
And I, a fool, believed him
With eyes half-shut I saw him
Hiding me from reality
So I had to break free
And flee from that gilded cage

I have no more dreams of diamond rings
Nor of white picket fences
Where my children would grow
In a place they called home
While I sang and baked them daily bread
A gilded cage wasn’t the life for me
So now I fly free instead.

It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a great start to my two-poem a week goal.

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