My name is Tobin Simon. I am a poet.

It has taken me much of a lifetime to say that aloud. Like most people I had forgotten that we were poets before we weren’t—before we became strangers to our imagination and guilty for this self-betrayal. Poetry shall be our path back to this primal sense of self. I see myself as the guide for the journey.

The first step is to clear your mind of any ideas about what a poem is. Just look through any poetry anthology and you’ll see a rich variety of shapes a poem might take. You can make use of Proprioceptive Writing’s first rule: write what you hear. Or you might think of the page as an open field which you are going to enter with a voice—write it. Be open to surprise.

You are involved in a creative process. Don’t get in its way; you are gathering your material; you are discovering what is moving you to write. Be ready to ask what you have meant by what you said. Express. Reflect!

Remember: we were poets before we weren’t. We learned through the body; we moved rhythmically and through rhyming. We made up songs to dance to: we were poets.

I suggest you keep two journals. In one keep your reflections on the life you are living. In the second journal gather images that have caught your attention. Also keep your dreams in this image-rich stew.

Keep your writing in a folder. Look through it as a prelim to the writing which is about to begin. Remember also that all firsts are celebratory and clumsy.

-Tobin Simon

At Kripalu

During the Kripalu retreat in October, Toby read several poems from Variety Pack. He was literally surrounded by his fans. Here he is, reading “Maine Visitation – A Rap.” Just use the media player below to hear the poet’s voice.

Order Toby’s book, Variety Pack from Ann Mullen via Email: Order