My Poetry Writing Process

My Poems Capture the Now of Fleeting Moments

"Journal" Felt Pen Drawing by Nina Serrano, Heart's Journey p. 40

“Journal” Felt Pen Drawing by Nina Serrano, Heart’s Journey p. 40

The Mexican Artists, Diego Rivera, said “I paint what I see.” In my poems, I write what I feel in the moment I am living, surrounded by history and my immediate environment.  As a poet, I am the historian of my perceptions as they pass. My poems capture the now of fleeting moments, transforming motion into a permanent still life, born of inspiration.

I become a poet when I write them down.  My poems are not unlike the thoughts that everyone experiences. It is the writing them down and reworking them over weeks, months and even years, that makes an insight, a thought, or a feeling into a finished poem ready to be shared. For me, the sharing is part of the poetry writing process whether in a publication, public reading with an audience, in a small circle of sister poets or in a writing group. Reading my poem aloud to others allows me to hear and improve it, sometimes on the spot. At poetry readings I often read with others. The cumulative effect of our words inspires me to write poems.

Before falling asleep, I review the events of the day. By morning the images, phrases, and insights dissolve with the rising sun of daily life. But at rare times, somethings stick and will not fade until they get written down. That is when I go to work as a poet, when I commit to writing and developing them, molding, shaping, and giving them life so they can fly away into the shared ambiance called art.

Sometimes I am asked to write a poem on a specific theme to raise awareness or funds for a social/ecological/justice cause. I examine my heart to hear what is there. It hums around in my mind as I go about daily life until a note sparks with something I am feeling, doing, reading or experiencing. With a deadline looming, I begin to write it down, and the poetic development process kicks in.

When I first began writing poems I was part of a male-dominated bilingual poetry group, with Roberto Vargas, Alejandro Murguia and Elias Hruska Cortez and others reading in the streets, bars, cafes and meeting halls to organize the barrio. We mixed English and Spanish, and like street fighters there were no holds barred when it came to wrestling with language. Our only guidelines were to keep our poems accessible to our audiences.  Then the late Daniel del Solar introduced me to the Frelimo Mozambique independence movement slogan which went something like, use simple words , that even the children will understand that will enter into the homes and the hearts of the people. I wish I could quote it exactly as we used to say it to all the time, but I could not find it on Google.

That is why all of my poems to this day register very high on the ease of readability scale. More recently my late friend Mary Rudge held me accountable for each word so that none would contradict or weaken the notion I was putting forward.

Through this all my goal has been to inspire others to hear their own thoughts and when these thoughts stick, to give expression to their inner truth and write poems. Poetry is inside everyone who gives it permission to fly and sing. Writing and speaking poetry is my way to get the word out, the glad tidings that we are one!



About Nina Serrano

Nina is a well-known, international prize-winning inspirational author and poet. With a focus on Latino history and culture, she is also a playwright, filmmaker, KPFA talk show host, a former Alameda County Arts Commissioner, and a co-founder of the San Francisco Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Oakland Magazine’s “best local poet” in 2010, she is a former director of the San Francisco Poetry in the Schools program and the Bay Area’s Storytellers in the Schools program. A Latina activist for social justice, women’s rights, and the arts, Nina Serrano at 84 remains vitally engaged in inspiring change and exploring her abundant creativity. For more information go to or contact her publisher at For more detailed information about Nina see About Nina on her website.


My Poetry Writing Process — 4 Comments

  1. Nina, this essay beautifully illuminates your poetry and your process. Sometimes when people talk about their writing, for me there is a disconnect between what they say and what I see on the page, but with you the connection is radiant and true. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.