Courage is Simply the Willingness to Be Heard

The Willingness to Speak Your Poems -

A new writer thanked me today for showing her the way to courage, the courage to speak up, the courage to share work.

I don’t feel courageous.

As a featured poet for an event last week, I found myself standing at the mic thinking, “Why did I say yes to this?” Before I could say a single word, there was a blank moment when my poetry appeared in my mind as a Very Stupid Idea. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that thought, and it won’t be the last.

What I keep coming back to: the willingness to be real. The willingness to show my pain and my struggles, my outrage and terror, my creations, my experiments, my soul.

The willingness to speak and to be heard is more powerful than fear. That’s all I have, really. It is the willingness to be the person I am at my deepest core.   I know others won’t always get me; they definitely won’t all think I’m brilliant. My poetry may indeed appear to others as a Very Stupid Idea. Yet they’re not the ones I answer to.

That soul of mine: it’s where the accountability is.

And so I’m willing. I guess this adds up to courage, all on its own.

My Writing River: A Poem

snippet collage version Delightfish

by Emily Gillespie

It starts with a trickle

My writing river is flowing on uncut soil
Atop the leaves and the dirt, forging a new trail
One fit for future waves to maneuver
It’s poking over to the left, seeing if it likes that
It turns to the right when it sees an opportunity to flow
Not scared to turn around if it doesn’t feel right
If it doesn’t suit the potential of this new writing river
A river that will take years of repetition to carve into the earth
Years of nudging its way into a strong current
riverWidening as it sees fit
And narrowing when it needs
But always flowing
Disregarding the trees
And the logs
And the rocks in the way
Not even the longstanding mountains stand a chance
Because this is my writing river
Stories as tiny as guppies and as big as whales will find their way down
Colorful energetic spindly fish storiessnippet collage version Delightfish
And simple silver mackerel fish stories
Long, winding eel-like stories
And dark, unmoving bottom feeder stories
All will be honored and accommodated in my new writing river
Just wait


Thank you to writer and storyteller, Emily Gillespie, for describing what it is to surrender to the writing process while honoring the discipline and practice. Loving the wisdom!


We’ve all felt stuck in our writing. Teresa Rodden, a life coach and writer in the Burn Wild workshop, colors this feeling in a new way. I love the wisdom of her poem, generated during National Poetry Month.


No inspiration –


A resounding thud.


Is anybody there?


Thoughts dropping from mind to mouth,

Yet not one tasty enough to swallow.

Where did she go,

That lovely dream chick who can make me smile?

She lights up my eyes. She amazes me with her silly word tricks.

Is she hiding behind overwhelm?

Did she run for the hills seeking escape?

I don’t know where my darling flew.

I will not chase her; she knows best.

To receive the gifts meant especially for me

Sometimes I just need to be still.

– Teresa Rodden



National Poetry Month: the Whys

Word to the Whys4-sieve


Writing the least of yourself

is a tight-mesh strainer.

What sieves through the other side

is pure soul captured.

First moments sometimes bitter, even rancid—

rind rank with utter lack, boredom, and a million whys.


Persevere. It’s there.

Allow the wander,

write for wonder,

lay bare juicy creation.

Get wise to the words

ripened inside.



As we continue our journey, sometimes faltering, through National Poetry Month, kjfields is a beacon. KJ is a founding member of the Burn Wild workshop and has ticked off a poem every day of the month so far.

We are grateful for the beauty and wisdom here, and to be sharing in this experience together. Thank you, KJ!

National Poetry Month: You Expand the Definition

To highlight National Poetry Month, I’ve been talking in Burn Wild class about how each poet brings something new to the definition of poetry.

Poetry was never e.e. cummings or Mary Oliver or William Stafford until they created their work in the world, released their voice, and expanded what poetry could be.

In the same way, even if you’ve never written a poem, you can decide for yourself what you like and what your boundaries are. You can celebrate your own way of seeing things. You can choose where to place the words on the page. And suddenly: poetry is now expanded by the presence of a new poet.

Here is how Wildfire Writer Susan Gordinier expands the definition of poetry:

The Poem

A new way to see


A way to let



A journey

A discovery

A road map

A vacation

A path that brings you


About what to say

How to take the think

And make

New something

A new




A let it go




I do like poems

Because i

Don’t like



And I also




The taste

Of the














–Susan Gordinier

Now I’d like to invite other Wildfire Writers – those of you who are using a ten-minute practice you’ve learned in my class or elsewhere – to share your poems with me. I’d love to show them off during this month. Post them on the Wildfire Writing Facebook page and some might even find their way here.

Keep saying what you need to say, the way you want to say it . . .

Resources for National Poetry Month

This is it!  National Poetry Month is the time to be surrounded by inspirational resources. You could write your very first poem, or collection of poems.

Never-too-late---leafThe poet William Stafford lived the spirit of National Poetry Month before such a thing existed. He wrote a poem every day – just calling it that, calling it good, even when he didn’t feel his work measured up. He made the call that it was good enough.

Another of my favorite Oregon writers, Brian Doyle, shared some words about Stafford with the Portland Tribune. “I love the fact that he thought everyone was a poet, if only we pay attention to the miracle of what is and report on it without fuss and bluster.”

Paying attention to the miracle of what is. Making a report. So simple.

Here are some resources for National Poetry Month:

And a way to see if you might be a poet, even if you’ve never considered it before. Because it’s a good time for that.

Does writing a poem make you a poet?

Creative Writing

Is it just about poem writing?

It’s a happy thing to come across someone writing a poem. So often, writers in my classes are confused about poetry. “I’m not sure where to start.” “I’ve never written a poem.” “I am confused about the rules.”

I tell them, a poem is expressing your soul in an artful way, using words.  It doesn’t have to “follow any rules.” You don’t have to start at the beginning. And, if you’ve ever written a love letter or made up a lullaby to a sleepy baby or invented a nickname, you have written a poem.

And a poet? A poet is simply someone who notices when they have written a poem.

That poet could be you.

Photo by Christi Krug.

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