You Can’t Write a Poem About THAT!

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Finding Significance Within the Mundane

Mundane: from the Latin mundus (world) thus mundanus (of the world)

Well-known poems that celebrate the mundane:
Something Is Going to Happen (from Delight) by Robert Penn Warren
The Road Not Taken; Dust of Snow by Robert Frost
The Red Wheelbarrow; This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams
Fog by Carl Sandburg
Miracles by Walt Whitman

Write Your Way Through
the Phases of Mundane Observation

Confining your field of focus to only what exists within a ten-foot circle around you, choose a suitable mundane subject, such as a pencil, ceiling fan, book, (Note: If you must look beyond a ten-foot circle, then confine your observation to the space of the room.) Writing continually, move through these phases of observation in order to generate descriptions and brainstorm ideas for further writing.


Describe, in detail, the subject’s appearance, various parts, materials, size, weight, etc. Describe what it does. How does it move? What is its energy source? What does it sound like? Can you hold it? How does it feel?


What is its purpose? How does its existence make the world better? How does its existence make the world worse? Describe the subject’s positive impact as well as its negative impact. Does it have a personality?


Look around your ten-foot circle. Are there others? Now look as far as your eyes can see. Are there others there? Use your imagination. Are there others outside of your field of vision? Within the building where you are? Beyond the block? Across the city where you reside? The country? The world?


What other kinds exist? What other objects are related to it? What things have a similar look, function, movement? What other objects, mundane or otherwise, have a similar effect? Imagine if the subject of your study should disappear. What would happen? How would the world be changed? Why is the subject important to your own life? To the world?

Poems that Celebrate the Mundane

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

William Carlos Williams

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

Hamburger Haiku

Fast food Happy Meal.
Everybody is happy.
Except for the cow.

Allan Wolf

from A Bird Came Down the Walk

A bird came down the walk.
He did not know I saw.
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sideways to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

Emily Dickinson



The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Carl Sandburg

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