“How to Write a Poem,” chapter 6

Tania Runyan titles this chapter “Let it Go: Mystery.”

“But most readers want to live with a poem, not be lectured by it. They want the author to get out of the boat so they can spend some time on the poetic waves themselves.”

Today I don’t want to be in the boat or out on the waves. Today is October 4. One year ago today my cousin Ashley Meagher died in a car accident. A few days later, on the way to her funeral, we marked the site with a grapevine cross. That’s what my evolving poem is about. And today I just don’t know what to do with it.

Let it Go.

In the comments, some of you have said you liked the first version the best. Although I’ve shared five versions of the poem, I’ve actually written 10—I think. Does it count as a revision when I change one word? Which version was best? Which allowed mystery?

Let it Go.

This past week Tweetspeak shared a poem of mine from 2013. The first, oh, 20 versions of it were essentially variations on the same theme. This summer I decided to rewrite the whole thing and imitate “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, the poem on red poppies and World War I. When I turned in “At Mile 37,” I didn’t know if it was any good. Something mysterious happened in that 21st version.

Is that what needs to happen with this poem—go in a completely new direction? Or am I on the right track and don’t know it because the subject is so personal? Why didn’t I just write about one of those stunning sunrises in Amarillo? No one would have to know we saw it the day after the funeral, on our way home.

No poem today. Let it Go.


  1. [audible murmur]

  2. No poem today? We can wait.

  3. Tania Runyan says

    Megan, what is most important in your evolution as a poet is asking these questions. Grace and peace.

  4. A lot of times, I respond to hard situations by writing a poem. But I don’t want the boat or waves either. Two days ago would have been my mom’s 77th birthday. She died in July. But on her birthday — actually, that whole week — I didn’t write any poems.

  5. this entire piece is a poem. of sorts. thank you for it.