Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process


Telling a story is speaking out anew
what you always knew you knew
but didn’t know you knew it
until you heard yourself saying it
and in the telling of it, you,
the teller, become the listener too.

The teller and the listener
together both discover
the process of finding out
what the story is all about
as one draws the story out of the other
and the story tells itself from cover to cover.

© Ken Chawkin

I wrote this about 25 years ago, after making up a bedtime story to help get my children to sleep. It came out well; we were enthralled. I called it Songbird. After reflecting on how it happened, I spontaneously spoke out these two sentences about the whole storytelling process, and wrote it down as a poem. It’s sort of a companion piece to Writing—a poem on the writing process. I told the story again the next night and recorded it. About a year or so later I had the small cassette transferred to an audiotape and sent it to them. My son actually transcribed it and sent it back to me, which was a pleasant surprise. I’m keeping it for posterity. You never know when it’ll come in handy again. 🙂

7 Responses to “Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process”

  1. Rhonda Day Says:


    E.M. Forster once said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” I quote this to my students all the time when I ask them to use writing as a method of exploration. Seems you understood this principle long ago. Thank you for sharing your lovely poem.


    • Ken Chawkin Says:

      Thanks Rhonda, especially for the great E.M. Forster quote! I remember it. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher!

      Here’s a corollary quote from E. M. Forster: “Think before you speak, is criticism’s motto; speak before you think is creation’s.” It’s in my post, Writers on Writing—What Writing Means to Writers:


  2. Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] This poem, What You May Not Know About Frankenstein, by Bill Graeser, was an inspiration! This poem by my son says it all: INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin. Related poems on this theme: Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe, Poetry—The Art of the Voice, and Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process. […]


  3. the secret keeper Says:

    It is so true when you tell a story from scratch. You never know what exactly is going end up be told or written on paper until the words have manifested themselves to your listener or reader. Love the poem. It is so accurate a description. Thank you for sharing this touching moment of creation. 🙂


  4. bryantzhang Says:

    to tell is to listen, just like why we take the notes. sometime we know we knew it, but we forget. when we review it, we found some parts of ourselves again. sometime we don’t know we knew it, but it is in our brain and waiting for us to discover again.


  5. Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Around that time I had made up a bedtime story for my kids. It was so magical we did it again the next night and recorded it. After it was done I spontaneously spoke out what that process was like, then wrote those two sentences down as Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process. […]


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