How does a poem begin?
With sound. I write every morning in my journal. Most of what I write is just about the act of writing. Pen to paper, taking a line for a language-based walk. I often start out with Marie Howe’s excellent writing prompt, which I have been writing from for many years: write 10 observations that do not use any metaphors. (It’s harder than it seems.) I invariably drift away from this constraint into writing with metaphor about stuff going in my life, in the world — more abstract things that benefit from having started with concrete observation.
Some mornings, I find myself inside a poem. I keep writing in my journal, then transcribe whatever I wrote to my computer, editing and adding as I go.
How do I know if I’ve stumbled into a poem?
If the language begins to leave me behind, I am in a poem.
If the language leaves me both slightly disoriented and fully alert in a way that both encompasses and surpasses the senses, I am in a poem.