Making Poems by Using Journal Fragments

Here is another interesting way to create poetry from your journals or memoirs. These poems are an interesting way to get at the ‘meat’ of your journal writing and the resulting poems can be very powerful. If you enjoy abstract art, this type of poetry writing just might be for you. I have had amazing success with these poems. I use this form of fragment poetry with my Creative Writing classes and workshop participants.

The method:

First, agree that you will allow your thoughts to run wild! No censuring allowed here!

Browse through your journal with pen, pencil, or highlighter in hand. I personally use a pencil, so that I can go back erase the marks from my journal later. If you journal on the computer, save the journal as Fragments first, then you are free to use the highlight tool as you search through the text. Circle or highlight words or phrases that jump out of you. You are working from your gut here. Don’t stop to ask why that particular word or phrase struck you, just circle it! My rule is that if I find myself pausing and pondering a word, phrase, or sentence, then I circle it.

Continue doing this for a few pages, then copy each of the circled words/phrases onto a piece of paper. I group them into lines of four to six as I copy them down…again, do not censure, just write them in the order you circled them.

Read through your fragments. Now you can start moving them around. You are looking for some sort of flow here, but it doesn’t have to necessarily make sense.

Continue editing by adding or deleting words. You will be surprised how the fragments need very little editing and seem to come together into a coherent piece without much editing or moving of lines!

Again, the key here is to not overthink it! Let your gut lead you and be ready for whatever jumps out at you.

Here are a couple of my fragments:

We were inseparable
Now I have some place
It keeps freezing up
All signs point to
Reality
Now it is frozen

(The above fragment came from a couple of pages of my journal and the subject matter was remembering an old friend, my computer freezing up, and what I was going to do with my day. I did no editing to that one….just wrote down the phrases that jumped out at me!)

Writing by candlelight
I am hiding
Forever on the verge of something
Always almost there

Was it all written already?
Too many questions
I don’t think I’ll ever get it
It is safer to stay away

About Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.
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One Response to Making Poems by Using Journal Fragments

  1. This is a great idea! Your examples were inspiring. Although I’m not a poet, I’ll try it today.
    A friend once gave me a poem that she wrote about me by gleaning tidbits out of letters I’d sent her.

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