As a children’s author, I have the privilege of reading to kids, mostly in schools and libraries, and I always start by telling them that my poems all come from my imagination. I continue by saying that they all have imaginations too, as good was mine or as anyone else’s. That gets them thinking, and listening a bit more sharply.
During the reading of my poems, I ask for questions, a part I always enjoy because I never know what will come at me. What is most frequently asked is, where do I get my ideas? I remind them that I use my imagination but that I am listening and looking and smelling the world around me for ideas or phrases or situations or animals or colors or jokes that can spark the beginning of a poem. By going towards life I am rewarded because life then comes back to me with buckets of stimulation.
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I tell them that on my book jacket notes, it says: “‘He spends a lot of time looking out the window,’ reads one of Robert Forbes’ report cards.” Daydreaming is healthy, and in our busy-every-minute high-tech lives, it’s good to slow down and get out of the electronic bubble we have all put ourselves into.
We talk about word choice and how it is the vehicle of writing, while imagination is the perpetual fuel for it.
Poetry has many forms, and whatever they feel is right for them is what they need to use. But poetry has rules that can be demanding too, and those rules make it more fun because of the challenges they present. I like rhyming, which can be hard. I also use meters, so there is rhythm to my poems. While metered rhymes can be difficult, I love the journey they take me on. I don’t always know where I am going to end up and sometimes I know where I want the poem to go but I don’t know how I will get there.
I wouldn’t have it any other way!
In the end, I write poems to please myself, and I hope they please others. By reading to children, I hope to stimulate them to read poetry and to try to write some themselves. I am scattering seeds in the belief some will sprout and scatter more seeds down the line.
Robert L. Forbes is President of lifestyle magazine ForbesLife and the author of the poetry collections Let’s Have a Bite! and Beastly Feasts!