My name is Tobin Simon. I am a poet.

It has taken me much of a lifetime to say that aloud. Like most people I had forgotten that we were poets before we weren’t—before we became strangers to our imagination and guilty for this self-betrayal. Poetry shall be our path back to this primal sense of self. I see myself as the guide for the journey.

The first step is to clear your mind of any ideas about what a poem is. Just look through any poetry anthology and you’ll see a rich variety of shapes a poem might take. You can make use of Proprioceptive Writing’s first rule: write what you hear. Or you might think of the page as an open field which you are going to enter with a voice—write it. Be open to surprise.

You are involved in a creative process. Don’t get in its way; you are gathering your material; you are discovering what is moving you to write. Be ready to ask what you have meant by what you said. Express. Reflect!

Remember: we were poets before we weren’t. We learned through the body; we moved rhythmically and through rhyming. We made up songs to dance to: we were poets.

I suggest you keep two journals. In one keep your reflections on the life you are living. In the second journal gather images that have caught your attention. Also keep your dreams in this image-rich stew.

Keep your writing in a folder. Look through it as a prelim to the writing which is about to begin. Remember also that all firsts are celebratory and clumsy.

-Tobin Simon

Toby and Quiet Wyatt


About Toby’s Memoir

We all know Toby as an accomplished poet and inspiring teacher. His poems have appeared for the last five years in our newsletters and have been published as Variety Pack. He’s also an artist; his drawings, whimsical and droll, comprise his second book, Wiggles and Squiggles.

Both are available through the PW Store.

Now, become acquainted with Toby, the memoirist. Presented below are excerpts from Toby’s work on his two sons – The Introduction and Chapter 1, as well as Chapter 2, about his son, Derek. In the coming months, the entire work (6 chapters and an introduction) will be posted in “Toby’s Blog.” Enjoy!



“What the world needs now is love sweet love.”
-Popular Lyrics

I’m going to be telling a story about how I came to love a boy, who was not my biological child, as if he were my son—love him with the singular passion and devotion I carry for my daughter and as I had for the son I lost to cystic fibrosis. I’m writing… continue reading here.



My son died on March 15, 1978. He was about nine and a half then, and I’d been preparing since he was six weeks old and diagnosed as having cystic fibrosis. For that first year of his life, I wanted him to die. I didn’t want to love him. I didn’t want the anguish that would… continue reading here.


First Impressions

I was in the Department of English and Humanities at Pratt Institute when I first met Francis. He had come with his parents (Linda and Frank) to the department’s traditional end-of-the-semester Christmas party in the building’s wainscoted meeting room– complete with unworkable fireplace, large circular oak table and tall windows looking out onto… continue reading here.

Toby At Kripalu

During the Kripalu retreat in October, Toby read several poems from Variety Pack. He was literally surrounded by his fans. Here he is, reading “Maine Visitation – A Rap.” Just use the media player below to hear the poet’s voice.

Maine Visitation – A Rap

Additional Readings


Mia Culpa

Order Toby’s books, Variety Pack and Wiggles and Squiggles through the PW STORE