When I discovered poetry in high school, I looked everywhere for inspiration. I thought I didn’t have anything to say, so I just wrote how I thought poetry was supposed to sound. About Love. Heartache. Something about rain. I still write about these things, but along the way, I found what truly inspires me. I found my voice. And I learned that the best poetry comes from real experiences. My poetry began to sound like me and feel like me because it was me. It was my heart translated into descriptive, pretty (sometimes ugly) words. I believe it impossible to create bad art with genuine emotion and inspiration. If you pour your soul into something, it will shine through. It will speak to someone. It will be beautiful.
1. Coffee shops.
No matter where I am, if I find a coffee shop, I feel at home. Maybe I like the uniformity of them. Or the lack of distraction. A change of scenery. They always feel welcoming. I sip on my soy chai latte and pull out my journal and words flow. Maybe it’s a “fake it till you make it” type of thing. Like if I’m a girl in a coffee shop with a journal, I will get into that artistic headspace and manifest good poetry. But it never fails. When I’m feeling stuck, I take myself out for a coffee and find that there is always something to write about.
Love is possibly the most obvious inspiration, but there is so much to it. Romantic love. Platonic love. Familial love. The lack of it. My personal experience. What I wish for it to be. How I want to express it. Declarations of self-love. Poems as love notes for my partner. I write when my heart feels like it is overflowing with it. There are a million versions of it. It is the greatest emotion there is. And there are never enough love poems.
3. Things that hurt.
This is one of my most favorite muses. Not because I’m a gloomy, tortured artist existing in a constant state of melancholy, but because of how it feels to write about the hurt. I use poetry as a form of therapy. I scream into the void and say all the things that are sitting on my chest. It is cathartic. It is relieving. And it is so incredibly comforting to send those poems out into the world and be met with understanding. To have my readers tell me that they get it. To be vulnerable, and for it to mean something.
4. Time spent alone.
I used to hate being alone. Especially in public places. But now, some of my most favorite moments have been ones I spent by myself in a new place. I used to visit my boyfriend in Philadelphia when he was in school and wander the streets unaccompanied. It was both terrifying and thrilling. I’d sit in Rittenhouse Square and write pages and pages in my journal. I think it’s the silence. There is so much time to sift through what’s on your mind or in your heart when you’re alone. You can release the internal monologue without interruption. Poetry helps make sense of what you’ve been keeping hidden inside. And sometimes you can only get there when you’re given space to let it out.
When I’m looking for a way to describe or represent an emotion, I always turn to nature. It’s universal. It is poetic without even trying. It’s nostalgic. The sea during a storm. The sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of an old oak tree. How the sun warms your skin on the first real day of spring. When I am searching for the words to illustrate how I feel, I can almost always find it in nature. I look for the specific moments when I noticed its beauty and incorporate that into my analogies. The earth contains the best metaphors.
I have broken out of the deepest states of writer’s block after watching a good movie. Some of my favorites include Anna Karenina, Atonement, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Bell Jar, Tender Is the Night, and Lolita have all inspired me with their unique voices. It’s important not to mimic or plagiarize the art that inspires you, which is why I typically turn to films or novels instead of poetry when I feel particularly stuck or uninspired. Music is an amazing source of inspiration as well. A lot of poets have specific playlists for writing. Mine consists of a lot of Beach House, Lana Del Rey, and Bon Iver.
Much of my writing is a note to self. It’s how I self-soothe, console, and encourage myself. When I’m feeling hopeless, I remind myself through poetry that I am not. If I have a panic attack, I write about my strength and tell myself that the pain does not last forever. When I am depressed, I illustrate the life I long for and show myself it is not out of reach. When I feel empty, I write about my dreams. When I want to convey hope to someone else, I write them a poem. Words have so much power. And sometimes poetry is exactly the thing we need to keep going.
Learn more about Madisen’s book of poetry Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better below!