The Madness of Inspiration

It’s a sentence dropped in passing,

just a side-note to the conversation,

or a jotting blotted in the margin,

only really half a thought.


Yet it opens the earth beneath you,

hooks in under your fingernails,

drags you to dimly lit, dusty corners,

both imaginary and real.


It doesn’t care that no one wrote it,

or if someone did then they lost it,

or passed it into a safe place

too good given the hindsight.


It’s dug a home in the meat of you.

Demanded your eyes, you tongue, your head.

Drew a line between now and then

as translucent as spider silk.


Now you only have to find it.


I’m working on a new poetry collection at the moment which I think I’ll probably name ‘Women, Water, and Witches’. The inspiration for it stems from the folklore surrounding women and water in Shropshire. This has led to me spending evenings researching Sea Witches, Jenny/Ginny Greenteeth, witch trials in Shropshire (there’s almost nothing in any source I’ve checked so far), then ducking stools and scolds, and even a policeman being sentenced to the stocks in 1850 for being drunk and disorderly.

More often than not, what seems like half an idea can lead me down a weird and winding path of research, which spits out even weirder tangents. A bit like a portal. (Ha! See my tentative link to the prompt there!)

The main problem I’ve run into so far is consolidating the history geek side of my brain which wants to fact check every source, to the poet side of my brain who wants to take a few artistic liberties here and there. The compromise so far seems to be that the poet can do what she wants, but the history geek will then get to write a paragraph of two for each poem to explain the background/history/lore. Hopefully this won’t put anyone reading the collection to sleep after the first couple of pages.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little portal inside my brain. Thank you for reading, and happy writing.



  1. that opening stanza says it all – those drops of creativity that stick if we let the left side of the brain write them down! Some really good imagery here not least:

    “hooks in under your fingernails,

    drags you to dimly lit, dusty corners,”


  2. Yes, it’s a magical process all right, Carol, and totally out of our control until we get it down on paper. I adore the lines:
    ‘Yet it opens the earth beneath you,
    hooks in under your fingernails,
    drags you to dimly lit, dusty corner’]
    ‘It doesn’t care that no one wrote it,
    or if someone did then they lost it,
    or passed it into a safe place’.


  3. I really liked this portal of inspiration, which strikes and grabs all our attention. This is my favourite bit: “or if someone did then they lost it,/or passed it into a safe place/too good given the hindsight.” 🙂


  4. I see a link between this and Frost’s poem, where “way leads onto way.” Your research has a good team working on it, the logician and the adventurer. The book sounds interesting.


  5. I identify with the need to fact check, and glory in the ability to have answers to my questions at my fingertips. There IS a temptation to tweak history a bit from time to time!


    1. I suppose that’s where folklore is easier to work with. There’s no facts so to speak of.
      I’m trying to not change or tweak anything so to speak of, but at the moment in the light of any concrete history I’m able to play with the narrative a bit more.


  6. Very totally wowed on this end. The picture hooked me, the words nailed me to my chair to read and re-read them. Would say more, but I hate to gush. It’s so gauche.


  7. Those little portals in our brain open quite often. My poem for today started as a response to a comment from yesterday! I immediately wrote it down and came back to it today. If I had not it would be gone, never to be recalled! Great job on the poem and prompt!


    1. I always keep a notepad on me. It’s a mix of writing and historical research, so there are pages of half written poems and Then a random extract from some paper or books. I’ve got a memory like a sieve otherwise.


  8. My poem for this prompt, as I came late to the pub, is exactly what you describe. I have been thinking, even dreaming about writing a renga; but how, for I would need other poets willing to contribute. Then it came to me–use famous poets, find lines and quotes that match my theme, and rewrite them as senryu; what fun.


  9. I love this process of the poet opening a portal for the geek who opens a portal for the poet. And being very honest about it, and clearly explaining which is speaking. A new her-story, as it were. Can’t wait to read the book!


  10. This poem stands firmly on it’s feet, it certainly hooked me. You don’t need the prose pieces to explain , but I’m so glad you include them. I really enjoy the glimpses behind the scene you offer. I also love trampolining off myth – the trampoline being the myth the poet the bouncer, and the poem the trajectory of bounce. It’s an added pleasure to know what bed we’re bouncing on.


  11. There’s no telling when, and from where, inspiration will strike. Do we set it aside while we finish other things, or do we consider it part of the whole. Only the writer knows.


  12. Is it ok to play favorites? This may be my favorite poem on the trail for this prompt. To struggle to find openng back to that thought or feeling that has dug a home in the meat of you. Fantastic! and Frustrating! and Beautiful! So well done Carol. 🙂


  13. Wonderful imagery, this was a fun one to think deeper on.

    Your pacing is also fantastic!

    Keep up the great work 😄

    This sort of art is what I’m getting into for my own writing.


  14. The poem is great but to me inspiration is a maddening insect. It buzzes around my head at the most inconvenient times and is difficult to grasp at best Later when I wan it to show up it is nowhere to be found and I must search for it

    Stay well and laugh when you can


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