Dusting Off Your Old Journals

Today I climbed the stairs to my writing desk to write a post about the poet’s dilemma. How can I wake myself up? How can I surprise myself? How can I make old information new or find new ways to talk about experience? I’ve already written quite a lot about matters of importance to me and hope that perhaps one line or two has struck a universal chord – for those who read poetry and find their way to my poems.

Poetry heals, poetry lives, poetry speaks even to people who insist they don’t understand or like poetry. We all sway to its truth at weddings, funerals, inaugurations, graduations, demonstrations or in quiet moments of need.

I look around my studio. I see a pile of scribbled journals. I think, yes I’ve already written about things that interest me, but not everything I’ve written has become a poem. I open one of my old notebooks at random. Ah, there’s something – I was at play with the idea of making a poem on a summer day:




Here people color the world with umbrellas

umber sand is passage for a stray balloon

offshore breeze laps at blue and red and yellow

and pinks the ruffled mob of parasols

here people color the world of bumbershoots

being human here feels cool sherbet mellow

the way the tide pulls at the constant moon

here people color the world in parapluie

and umber sand is passage for stray balloon


Not necessarily a finished work, but maybe something to give me the inspiration I need to begin again.

Here is the finished published poem:


April Beach


White gossamer balloon

lost from a child’s delight

skips freely for a moment

along the sandy landscape

draws pattern on the wind.

Sapphire sky backdrops its wild frolic.

Time shifts. Afternoon light

kindles the beach bright umber.

A jogger, sweating shirtless,

stops, turns seaward for a moment


while the white balloon

skitters the shore,

dips and lifts before it goes

to sheer pale tatters.


Here’s another journal entry; I was looking at a painting by Redon, his “Meditation.” Maybe I can find something here.

Odilon Redon,  Meditation

Odilon Redon, Meditation

Redon’s ghost remains inside his painting.

Rust becomes rose as he dips his large brush into lush paint.

Orange flavors the bristles. He slides color into canvas, into being,

into other, in strokes that evince his ground.

Lavender spirits surround a blue violet vase,

appear and disappear on the surface.

Flowers push their way out of the picture plane.

Redon still holds the brush, his oils juicy,

heart humming with the moment.


I think maybe this might be something worth pursuing.

Again, on a dry day, some long forgotten journal entry can take me out of the doldrums. It has today. For not only have I found a fit subject for this post, but I can feel something moving me to re-visit these unfinished writings.

This method of random searching through old work could serve you too. Find your journals. Open at random. Once inside, you will swim through memories. Copy one line. Let your thoughts ramble into a free write. Take a walk to a coffee shop or to the beach. Cradle the old notes, a pen and an empty pad.

If you don’t keep a notebook with you at all times, better start. There are pearls inside you that can’t be strung together otherwise. How many times have you thought of a poem or a line, or heard a bit of dialogue and forgotten it? Mine those journals. Discover. Uncover. Begin! The possibilities are waiting to be unearthed.