The Poetic Process: From Inspiration to Publication | John Davis Jr. | Skillshare

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The Poetic Process: From Inspiration to Publication

teacher avatar John Davis Jr., Florida Poet and Educator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (34m)
    • 1. How do I get Inspired?

    • 2. Prewriting Strategies

    • 3. The Drafting Process

    • 4. Publishing Poetry

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About This Class

In this class, poet and educator John Davis Jr. will take you through the steps of creating a poem of your very own -- one that can be polished and submitted for publication to literary venues including magazines and websites. 

Meet Your Teacher

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John Davis Jr.

Florida Poet and Educator


Hi! I'm a seventh-generation Floridian with deep roots here in the Sunshine State. I write poetry predominantly, and I've received quite a few awards over the years. My four books are Middle Class American Proverb (Negative Capability Press, 2014), Hard Inheritance (Five Oaks Press, 2016), The Boys of Men (chapbook by Kelsay Books, 2014), and Growing Moon, Growing Soil: Poems of my Native Land (self-published). I currently teach English, Creative Writing, and Literature at the university level, but I teach what I most love here on SkillShare: Poetry! I hope you join me on this journey. 

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1. How do I get Inspired?: Hello class today we're talking about how to get inspired to write poetry. Now, there are a lot of different ways that you might be able to get inspired. And so we're going to be looking at a few different options and a few different situations or scenarios where you might find inspiration in your daily life or in a variety of circumstances he you may encounter just as you go through your everyday tasks or activities . The first kind of epiphany, the first kind of revelation that I'd like to talk about that leads to poetic inspiration is, uh, like, my fancy problem. Yeah, this is the nature epiphany. Police. Forgive my lovely artwork here, right? Like my tree. Uh, the thing about the nature epiphany is you've probably had this happened to you before. You've probably been in a situation or in a circumstance, like being on a family picnic or being on a camp out or going on a canoe trip down the river, and you have seen or you have heard something in nature that really prompted you to get inspired. Perhaps it was something as simple as a tree or the way a leaf was shaped. Maybe it was the way the water was rippling beneath your craft and the way the light was striking. Those waves, those air, all forms of nature, epiphany. And those are situations that we can take advantage of as writers and as poets. Certainly the nature epiphany is not alone. It is not by itself in the area of inspiration. Another kind of epiphany someone might have that you might have is the, uh, the analogy, epiphany. And as you can see from my lovely illustration here, usually this happens when you have a tangible thing, a concrete thing that you compare to an abstract notion, right, Some kind of tangible thing, like an apple, like a statue, like a car. And you think, Hey, that thing is like, this other idea. This is how the analogy epiphany works. Okay, I'm gonna take that down because it's a little disconcerting that my face is being covered , and I know how distressing that could be. Oftentimes, as poets, we have the analogy, epiphany mawr frequently than other types of epiphanies. The analogy epiphany is one that oftentimes occurs to us simply during routine activities. Now, toward that end, I've mentioned twice now that oftentimes these realizations, thes revelations or epiphanies will come to you during everyday exercises, activities, things that you do, even in kind of mundane circumstances. In fact, sometimes mundane circumstances are better for epiphanies, then high adventure or action. There is a way to prepare for that kind of inspiration. Let me tell you what I mean. Give me just a moment here. Took me a minute. This is a pocket notebook, and a pocket notebook is handy because I know this is out of frame, but I am wearing a shirt with a pocket. It can fit into a shirt pocket. It can fit into, um, your purse. It can fit into any kind of small space that you may have that can accommodate something of this size. However, the good thing about one of these is that you will have on your person a note taking and epiphany recording device. It's kind of old school, right? It's not a phone. It's not a device s so to speak in the technological sense, but it will allow you to record these ideas these realizations and epiphanies that come to you throughout the day throughout the week whatever the situation happens to be, so as long as you have a pocket notebook, as long as you have something to write with and something to write on, that's the big idea. But you do want to start keeping track of your inspirations. Because, of course, those inspirations are what turn into poems and poetry. The third kind of epiphany that we're going to talk about today is the the reflection epiphany. This one happens. There we go whenever you're thinking back when something reminds you of something else. When something triggers a recollection of the past or causes you to think back right, the reflection epiphany is one that is often used by poets who like to write about the past , who like to write about what has happened to them. What has happened previously, perhaps even historical poetry, poetry that is based upon another time or another era. The reflection epiphany is one that occurs to people most regularly when they are in a state of what psychologists would call hip nego JIA, right? I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing that entirely correctly. There are other pronunciations from what I understand, however hip nego JIA comes to you whenever you have first, a woken from sleep and you are just getting started in your day. This is why a lot of poets will write in the early morning immediately after getting out of bed, because your brain is still in that almost dreamlike state. There's really fabulous book by Robert Olen Butler out of Florida State University, entitled From Where You Dream, wherein he talks about routines and rituals that could be helpful to writers. And one of those that he speaks about is getting out of bed and immediately beginning You're writing whatever that writing happens to be. And while Butler is primarily a proves writer, that can apply to poets as well. So that's something else to think about as long as we're talking about inspiration. Another type of epiphany that you may have another type of realization that may lead to poetry is the artistic or visual epiphany. Okay, when you see a work of art when you see a picture, when you see a portrait when you see something and you go about the business of interpreting, connecting or identifying with that that is called X ray CIS. By the way, I don't know if that although got into the brain. But down here at the very bottom, you have the word ec phrases, and I have an entire other video about writing X drastic poetry. But the artistic or visual epiphany happens whenever we as human beings, connect with the content in a work of art. Now I have a painting right behind me. Here, you see these books with the, um guild work on them. And this is certainly a good example of the kind of art that might lead you to inspiration . If this is the kind of thing that you typically favor if you if you like this kind of painting and you connect with it, then certainly it could become the basis for an EC fast IQ work. Okay, but yes, the artistic or visual epiphany is another one that you may have. And as long as we're on this subject, let me say this very briefly. Don't try to force inspiration. What do I mean by that? Don't try to intentionally situate yourself in such a way that you believe I am definitely going to be inspired here. Now that sounds counterintuitive. Why would I not want to put myself into an environment where I'm going to be inspired. Here's why your brain does something very strange when you do that. What your brain will do is it will be kind of on the look out for any of these points of inspiration. And rather than allowing inspiration to happen organically, your brain, your cognitive ability, will take over. And in essence, what will happen is you'll kind of be faking inspiration. You'll be faking these epiphanies, and that's not what you want. You want honest, authentic, genuine inspiration to drive your work rather than inspiration that has been frankly fabricated. Okay, let let's not use fabricated inspiration. Let's instead allow these epiphanies to come to us. You don't go to inspiration. Inspiration comes to you, and it has long been a mysterious thing. I think, if you will, for a moment about how the ancients thought of the muses, think about this stoics right, and the Greek and Roman philosophers and the quandary they had over How does one get inspired? Well, we're still wrestling with that today, but we know that these different types of epiphanies that we're talking about today can often times occur to us, and if we're able to identify them, then we are then able to perhaps allow ourselves to encounter the world in such a way that inspiration will naturally and organically occur rather than us trying to force it. The final kind of epiphany that I want to talk to you about today is that's upside down, isn't it? Yes, it is the reading epiphany. Okay, The reading epiphany happens when you are reading normally, pros. Although it can be poetry. And you have this Ah ha moment. You see something where you hear something obviously could be an audiobook as well. Um, but you see or hear something in text or in media that triggers an epiphany of your own. It triggers a realization or a revelation that you experience, uh, lots of times. Poets especially, will have what I like to call the first line epiphany. You'll be in a commonplace. You'll be in a normal situation and suddenly seemingly out of the clear blue. A series of words, perhaps a sentence or a phrase will occur to you that you immediately recognize as having the potential for poetry. You can take that first line you can take that Siris of words and you can build from it. Oftentimes the first line epiphanies happen whenever you are reading. So the more poetry and prose that you read, the more you are preparing to receive epiphanies of your own. Okay, you're preparing your mind for inspiration. You're not forcing it. You're not saying Okay, brain now be inspired and let me write a great award winning poem. Instead, you are simply placing yourself into a scenario where inspiration may occur organically. This is why a lot of writers enjoy fellowships and enjoy retreats and seminars and conferences, because the creative energy that exists in those environments often times leads to organic inspiration, inspiration that has come about naturally rather than being forced or led by the nose to the page. So now that we have a few ideas about what epiphanies are and how they might occur to us, whether that is in nature, whether that is in text, whether that is an art or whether that is in life itself, we now can move forward into the next step of the poetic process, which is pre writing or what I like to call anything but poetry. More on that in just a few 2. Prewriting Strategies: So when we talk about poetic pre writing, one of the things that we need to immediately discuss is how pros like this becomes poetry . As you can see, this is a whole block of text that I created during pre writing. This is proves that just fell out of the pin as I was thinking about ironing and what it means for a father to iron. Now I have written this in a persona that is, I have written from the perspective of one of my sons rather than this being the speaker, rather the author. As speaker, I tried to see things as he would see things. A Zara's ironing is concerned, and this is what happened. I just sat down and I started writing. And as you can see from all of these marks and all of these circles and lines and cross outside so forth, this process actually led to a poll that, of course later was published and then later added to the manuscript of mine. But for today, let's just concentrate on how prose turns into poetry. I began writing, as I said, from the perspective of one of my sons, and started with the first line my father is ironing and then set a little more about that . It is hiss before work morning ritual, choosing a dress shirt from the closet, inspecting it with a shake of the head, then laying it out for its steam and starch punishment. A sentence given two garments with too many wrinkles. As you can see there, some elements in that first paragraph that I thought those sound like they would fit into a poem. So let me just borrow those and stick them into a draft. Let's look at Paragraph two here one generation before this would have been called woman's work, but my father, the perfectionist, would not have cared. Even then. The clothes make the man, he tell me before playfully shooting a cloud of white wet heat in my direction from his iron. I didn't find a great deal of potential in this paragraph. You can see I've put a star beside the shooting, a cloud of steam etcetera, and that eventually didn't even make it in. If it did, it was edited out. So sometimes you have some nuggets of potential within the pros that you create, and other times not so much. But either way, you're generating thought to your generating ideas here by 7 a.m. He would be creased, seemed and pressed into better than military shape. Perfectly rigid pleats punctuating his pants, long college ruled stern lines dramatically edging his arms. And, of course, the ever present tie whose peak arrested perfectly just over a shiny brass belt buckle. Simple but classy. Just like him. Um, you can tell that this was a little bit forced. The ending of that, as I read it aloud, now sounds like I was a little overboard. It's a little melodramatic, and so you can see that that eventually got left out. Some of this work its way into the problem, and I'll show you an example of that later on. Final Paragraph here of this pre writing had his school, he would be called an anachronism, some relic left over from a time when teachers considered the example they set for their students again, he wouldn't care what others thought. The starch and polish were his persona, his identity among a sea of lackluster union nights clad and coffee stained polo shirts or flour sack dresses sagging sadly from unfit forms a little judgmental there. Well, anyway, um, you can see how this kind of prose eventually turns into poetry, because after you have written a full page of something like this, there are certain lines and certain ideas that stand out to you. And then, of course, you can go back and you can get rid of anything. That's fluff. You can get rid of anything that is not valuable. So this is step one simply writing down what comes to mind. And this is the best form of pre writing that I know off Morano other strategies momentarily. Here's another device that I find handy whenever you are pre writing before coming to the page with potential poetry. The two column note chart is especially good if you have had an analogy. Epiphany, that is. You've realized that one thing is like another thing, and sometimes those two are fairly closely related, as you see here, and sometimes they're completely desperate. Sometimes you have to notions or two things that you're putting into juxtaposition with each other that are not necessarily closely related in any way. In this case, I had this notion about a poem I wanted to write about my grandfather's Glenn Miller record , and it later turned into a poem. But before I could proceed, how really had to do some thinking about what it meant for the big band era and World War two to collide with one another? What were the similarities they had? What were the differences that they had? And why were those relevant? Well, as you can see here, as I began to scribble down thoughts, I realized that there were some material similarities. For instance, brass was a material used both and war as well as four musical purposes. I realized that noise was a similarity. There's wartime noise, and, of course, there's instrumental noise or music on. And then there's the uniforms, right, the uniform of those who were big band performers in the uniform of those who served in the military. And those two things often were pretty similar. Um, I also thought about the Instruments house. I thought about some of the I guess the implements that are used both in war as well as in music and how those things parallel one another, or how they're different on so forth. By the time I got done with all of this. I had a bit of a first line epiphany, which is a type of epiphany that I've mentioned before, And it was this line, the innocent soundtrack of war. So sometimes there's graphic organizers that we were prescribed in school. Whether it's a to come on, no charge or a Venn diagram or a cluster map, these can sometimes be handy. They can sometimes lead you places, help you to organize your thoughts in such a way that then later on you are able to come up with a draft that is more meaningful because you have put these ideas into a form that allows you to truly analyze them before you even get to the page, and occasionally that's helpful. 3. The Drafting Process: Let's check for just a moment about drafting and how important it is during the poetic process. What you see here in front of you is a draft of April that was later completed and in fact it was published. It was published not only in one of my books, but also it was carried by a literary magazine. I'll have to go back and do a little research on that to you, which one? But right now, the main thing I want you to see here is how thoroughly this has been marked up. I am a fan of using both cursive and print when writing drafts by hand, because it does different things to your brain when you see a poem and cursive and then when you see it in print, it's like hearing it from someone else's mouth. And so it actually helps. It is something that is neurological viable. This is inheriting my late father's Kevin, as you can see there at the top, and this is one of the first drafts I want to go ahead on. I want to move this one on. I want you to see this side by side with the draft that came after it because I incorporated the changes that you see here into this dress that I'm putting here in front of the camera as we speak. And as you can see, there's not quite so many changes here. Uh, the ending really kind of concerned me. And then finally, after this draft was done, much later, I drafted it again. I revised it and rewrote it another time, typically speaking, and you can see this copy is in print. It still has it right. It still has some work up that you see here on the page. But typically, I will go through about five drafts. And for some people, mawr are necessary. For some people, fewer drafts are necessary. But in this case, what we have is almost the final draft, and you will seeing the final draft in the final video of the Siri's, which talks about publishing right now. Let's just take a quick look at this almost final draft and see how it sounds on the page. Since we can see it. This is inheriting my late father's cabin and winter. The floorboards get so cold here, my feet sometimes mistake them for water falling at night, far from the gas heaters. Whisper toes and pads and souls. Remember summer Creek beds tumbling, cool brownstones smoothed over by worlds of crisp mountain currents. Your voice. If you throws downstream, it's timber among sycamores. Warning me not too far in your former studies fireplace embers behind the closed wire screen still simmer, and I borrow one of your guilt and leather books from its shelf. Plath, Hayden, Red Key or some other writer who pinned their father too well in ink to dark sometime before or after he died. I sink in your chair, prop up my heels, feed would to this dry fire. Okay, so that sounds pretty good. It sounds pretty good on the page. There's a lot of images that are really stark, and so you can tell that this was an almost ready poem. This is a poem that was almost ready to go. The thing about this is, once you put a written draft into a digital draft, then inevitably you come back to that later on and you think, Well, let me tweak this word or that word and kind of play around with it on the page I do not recommend writing poems on the computer to start with, and the reason why I don't recommend that is because for whatever reason, our brains perceive things on a screen as permanent. We see them as something that cannot be changed. When you are scribbling with pen in hand on a piece of paper, your brain is ready and primed and prepared to make changes. And so that's why you see this process at work and to go back. You see that this went through a number of draft these air only three. I probably had more than this at one time, but I'm using these three as examples for this. I hope that you also will draft multiple copies of your work and that it will get better with each rewrite. Sometimes you can walk away from a piece for a period either a short period or a long period, and when you come back to it, you will have fresh perspective and be able to edit and revise and proof read even better. So that's drafting. Drafting includes a revision. It includes rewriting. It includes all of the things that you have seen here, scribbling through in the marking out and the moving of language around all of these air part of that drafting process. And frankly, this is kind of the fun part. If you're a real poet, you enjoy rewriting because it allows you to really take your work and make it its absolute best. You really want the opportunity to create something that is going to be superior. By the time you were done, I hope you enjoyed this presentation will be moving on to our next one very shortly. 4. Publishing Poetry: as we reach the end of our time together, I thought it might be productive to show a few copies of poems that were referenced and earlier videos, whether those were in pre writing or in drafting. The poems that you see here have been published in literary magazines and then also in books of mine, including middle class American proverb and also the volume entitled Hard Inheritance. Middle Class American proverb was published by Negative Capability Press and Mobile, Alabama, and 2014 and Hard Inheritance was published by Five Oaks Press out of New York in 2016. This bone laundry grading you saw in progress previously and here is the final copy. My English teacher father loved ironing morning ritual shirt inspection assessment made with a head shake and frown before laying out the Oxford cloth like some horribly wrong test essay ready for a starch and steam sentence. Punishment for grievously flaw. Layton garments in serious need of proofing and editing hot, flat black triangle corrector of errors severe and swifter than any red felt tip pen. In minutes, he decreased seemed and pressed into perfect AP a format pants panels punctuated by pleats and half inch college ruled margins, outlining his arms and starkest sharpest, cleanest blank space created with heat and deliberate precision. His pendulum necktie marked seconds passing over an exquisitely gleaming brass belt buckle , seemingly saying with each silk swish. Time's up, pencils down pasture work to the front. So there's laundry grading and you can see how it evolved from for your writing into draft . And then, of course, into this final copy, Let's take a look at another piece that we saw an earlier version of in Pretty Writing. This is my grandfather's Glenn Miller record, and it is a Cascade poem. The form cascade takes the lines from this first stanza and then uses each one as the last line of each subsequent stanza. So be on the lookout for that as we proceed through this piece as well. This is my grandfather's Glenn Miller record. Innocents Soundtrack of War, complete with well polished brass contained on a long play black circle blasting bursts of smoky song through my free, peaceful living room. Ebony barreled clarinets with gleaming silver hardware role. Mellow notes like tumbling bombs across the front lines, E G B Innocents soundtrack of war trumpets and trombones break quiet, leading a charge toward finale in a shiny metallic display of bright and brilliant bravado completed by well polished brass. Those lustrous metal days have passed, but still we feel the residents, liberties trimmers heard and throats of instruments contained on a long play. Black circle, scratchy percussion vibrations measuring discordant harmonies from chambers locked and loaded with the power of human breath. Blasting bursts of smoky song, My young sons enter and listen to a conflict and victory medley that feeds their curious courage with audible history winding through my free, peaceful living room. And then, finally, our last one is a poem that you saw in draft form. This is inheriting my late father's cabin. In winter, the floorboards grow so cold here, my feet sometimes missed aktham for water falling at night, far from the gas heaters, whisper toes and pads and souls remember summer Creek beds tumbling, cool brown stones smoothed over by quarrels of crisp mountain currents. Your voice a few throws downstream its timber among sycamores, warns me, not too far in your former studies fire police members behind the closed wire screen still summer, and I borrow one of your guilt and leather books from its shelf. Plath, Hayden, Red Key or some other writer who pinned their father too well in ink to dark Sometime before or after he died, I sink in your chair, prop up my heels. Feed would to this dry fire. So there are three final copies. Three final drafts of the poems that you saw in progress earlier. Throughout this I want to thank you all for looking and listening and being a part of this interesting course. I hope it's been interesting for you. And I also wish you good luck on your own drafts and on your own efforts at creating poetry through the poetic process. Thank you again and good bye.