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Why I Write Poetry: J.lynn Sheridan

A couple weeks ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in. Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from J.lynn Sheridan.

J.lynn Sheridan writes in the Chain O’ Lakes of Northern Illinois in a very ordinary house, but she’d rather live in an old hardware store for the aroma, ambiance, and possibilities. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and literary journals, a few of which are: Beyond the Dark Room, Poetic Bloomings, Storm Cycle 2012 Of Sun and Sand, Three Minus One, Four and Twenty Literary Journal, The Plum Plum, Garbanzo, Jellyfish Whispers, Mouse Tales Press, and Poetry Quarterly. She has just completed her first novel.

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Why I Write Poetry: J.lynn Sheridan

 J.lynn Sheridan

J.lynn Sheridan

Someone once told me that my mind processes life in verse. I know exactly when that began.

In 1968, my father packed his wife and four kids into the (un-airconditioned) Buick for a West Coast road trip. From Chicago to the mountains, while the doldrums of endless miles of corn and soy and pavement streaked by, I hung my head out the open window and sang nonsensical songs, quiet and meek, making up lyrics and sending them along the wind for the next lonely little girl to hear and be heartened.

I was eight.

In a few days, I would be woken in the middle of the night just inches from a grizzly, his claws leaning atop our tent, the heat of his ponderous bulk penetrating every cell from my toes, up my spine. I was frozen, teeth chattering uncontrollably.

On the way home, I sang into the wind again. Not out of boredom this time, not as a choice, but to process what I couldn't speak.

That was the year poetry became my friend. I had learned the key to emotional fortitude. I intuitively sang my poems to free my fear and endure.

It was the same year I picked up my brother's old folk guitar and learned to play. My naïve poems, fraught with blunder, swayed in childlike prosody for the first time.

At ten, I wrote poetry, not as a choice but to endure the bewildering feelings after a rape attempt.

At fourteen, in school, I was chastised for daydreaming but I was too busy capturing poetry in my mind to care.

I had found my home inside words to process life:

"We Learn to Hate"

You said to love is

And to hate is

And our enemies we should

And no one should we

But if we don't learn to receive

We learn to give

As a poet, I live in a perpetual state of wonder and wander. I am a nomad yearning to package a thought or feeling or event into verse, to save it, to relive it, to share it. I think of poets as word photographers. But, a poet's lens digs even deeper.

My poetry blog is titled Writing on the Sun. The title comes from Willa Cather's novel, My Antoniá.

She describes a farm plow on a hill during the sunset:

"The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk, the handles, the tongue, the share, black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun."

To me, that describes a poem. An impression appears, like the flash of a camera, it is there but for a moment and I cannot let it go.

Writing poetry is not a choice; it's innate. It enters our souls and cannot hide in silence forever.


If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.


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