Punk rock music gave Seattle poet John Burgess the idea to write short, to "spit out what I have to say and get off the stage."
The words and wordplay in his poems mimic the rhythm of punk rock, and punk rock is usually playing as he works.
"When I don't have an idea for a poem, I'll put on music and just start free writing," he said. "I'm blasting Lou Reed right now!"
In poetry, as in punk rock, stage presence is important, Burgess said.
"I find out a lot about my poem when I read it out loud -- its rhythm, what phrases gel, how the audience reacts or doesn't react."
Since the mid-1990s, Burgess has been a regular in the Seattle poetry scene, and he frequently performs live readings of his work. He's published three books of poems with Ravenna Press and is on the board of Richard Hugo House.
Since 2005, he's collaborated with local musicians in the Band of Poets.
"Working with musicians has sent my writing in new directions," Burgess said. "I'm learning to weave fragments and short poems together and then letting the music fill in the meaning."
Burgess began writing as a teenager and has kept a notebook since his college days in the late 1970s. He has also built writing into his day jobs, reporting and editing at small weekly newspapers and later in corporate communications.
Most days, Burgess writes first thing in the morning, writing and posting short haiku-like poems on Twitter during his morning commute downtown on the 358 bus.
He grew up in upstate New York and lived in many different places, including Montana and Japan, before settling in Seattle in 1985. Here he found a supportive writing community, with lots of opportunities for a writer to read from his works and improve them.
He suggests writers seeking inspiration check out local readings and venues and be persistent.
Splab in Columbia City, North End Forum in Ravenna and Hugo House's Cheap Wine and Poetry night are some examples, he said.
"If it doesn't work for you, try another one," he said.
The following poems are from a collection that Burgess calls "punk poems." Burgess has been writing these short 10-line poems for about 10 years. The first 48 were published in his first book, aptly titled, "Punk Poems," and the second set, 49 to 74, came out last year in his third book, "Graffito."
Our future is riding
In the back seat
Jockeying for position
Grabbing & pressing
All elbows & knees
All punk possibilities
As wisdom drives
Swerving & swearing
A hard time staying
Between the lines.
Lonesome & love gone
The next town--
A jumping &
A swinging it
Done with me
Done as night
In morning light.
The wine is fine
Look like mine
(Add your line).