On Writing Poetry

Reflections nurture the writing of poems; my poems keep on feeding reflections
by Barbara Lefcourt

Image: Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


My first poem was born one autumn about ten years ago as I studied glorious sunset photos taken the previous summer at our cottage. I was gripped by the notion that the visuals needed words for the complex feelings we had as we sat on lakeshore rocks in the sun’s shifting glow. I continued on to write about many facets of the natural world: homage to other life, connections to eternity, nature’s threatening forces. I also focus a lot on personal relationships paying particular attention to sensual pleasures, regrets and human foibles.

My strategy in creating a poem developed quite unconsciously in those first attempts. There is always a beginning thought that generates deep-seated feelings. The ending comes to mind, often at the same time. Then the process of getting from start to finish by summoning up metaphors and images to flesh out connecting thoughts and feelings becomes most absorbing and satisfying. I often find myself wandering down “side roads” and must decide whether they add to the poem’s strength or are extraneous.

Occasionally I do research if I care deeply about an issue I wish to write about and need to be better informed. However, poems mostly grow from my desire to capture special moments in life’s journey. Early on, I had no strong wish to see my work published but, through membership in the Cambridge Writers Collective, I found encouragement to submit work to many venues and have been gratified to find some of my work well received for publication and in having been awarded a few prizes for poetry.

I treasure human connections that happen from revealing one’s self through poetry. On Sunday, November 1st 2009, as part of a church service in honor of loved ones who had passed away that year, I read several poems that were about aspects of my sister’s recent decline and death. Afterwards, many folks in the congregations hugged and thanked me for sharing thoughts and feelings they too had experienced but had never found the right words for.

FLEDGING
by Barbara Lefcourt

of cushy chocolate velvet
that commodious easy chair
in those early years
my favourite focus at home

when little, stretched out
on Mom’s lap, I’d gaze at pictures
in the treasured books she’d read
as we munched peanuts

beneath lamp’s halo, the chair’s
clasping arms and generous breadth
nestled me in adventures, gave solace
through pages and ages of growing up

lengthening, strengthening to finally
fly away, I never noticed its skin thinning
and, once, on a visit home I saw
the carpet there, bare

the chair returned ready to accommodate
in dress of modish design, silky and stiff
a guest’s perch, now in waiting
for polite, casual conversation

BALANCING
By Barbara Lefcourt

the sea is calm today
complacent glass

feather clouds
shoreline trees
cottage retreats
sigh
in shimmer

scattered boaters
float to the welcome
dot with colour
the distant blue
glisten beneath
a munificent sun

come into the scene
amble wherever you please
play your games
gorge on the plenty
these sweet moments

waft on the fine
balancing of forces
before

that inevitable storm
shatters the sea
into an infinity
of crashing
black-white shards


Barbara Lefcourt was born, raised and educated in New York City and moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her young family in 1964. She had taught elementary school before staying home to raise three children. She became a member of the CWC in 2003 after starting to write poetry around the time she retired from her mid-life career as teacher of Literacy and Basic Skills for Adults.

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One response to “On Writing Poetry

  1. I like the weight of the last stanza in “Balancing,” which is a great title, since it so accurately captures how something ominous or worrisome can completely shift an otherwise peaceful time.

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