If you're still with me, thanks for sticking around. If you're not, it's safe to come back now; no more poetry for a while.
I went into this challenge with zero forethought. About two days before April, I was on Facebook (where I rarely put in an appearance) and I saw that Annemarie Lockhart, lovely editor of Vox Poetica, had put up a post along the lines of, "who's going to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month?" And I thought, sure, why not?
The first day was fun, with the snow and the kids at home to play along. The second day, I began to seriously regret my decision. But after that something started to happen; poems started just pouring out of (or into?) me. Part of that was being in a receptive state of mind, and part of it was going through a major emotional upheaval (apparently, strong emotions are good for poetry...who knew?). Some of the poems I wrote last month, nearly wrote themselves--once two completely different ones came to me in the shower; I could not write them down fast enough when I got out. Others, I had to work really hard at. I wonder if you can tell the difference? It was pretty exhilarating when they were coming fast and furious, but by the end of the month, I was counting down the days, and the poems.
A couple of people have commented that they would like to try to write poetry, but fear holds them back, so I want to share a couple of things about fear from Sage Cohen's Writing the Life Poetic, a copy of which I'm going to give away in a minute. First, in chapter 24, she writes, "I wrote and read poems for about a decade in complete secrecy before ever taking a class or reading a how-to book." So if you're in the closet with your poetry, you're in good company. We tend to forget that successful people had a time in life before they were successful--when they were still learning. We want to jump straight to the point of being good at something without working through being bad at it first. It's nice to read that someone who writes and teaches poetry was once a secret poet.
Second, in Chapter 22, she recommends writing a horrible poem, filled with all of the mistakes you are afraid of making in poetry. Once you've done your worst, you can set all those fears aside and move on. You might even find something worth keeping in that bad, bad poem.
Poetry was my entree into creative writing back in Mrs. Donnely's third grade class. I've returned to it over and over through the years, and have taken long sabbaticals from it in between. But, I do not think of myself as a poet, nor do I have any expectations of ever being a good poet. I think having no investment in the outcome frees me to write bad poems, which allows some good to come forth. On the other hand, I really, really want to write good fiction, and therefore I'm nearly paralyzed with inability to sit down and get a single scene down on paper. The thought of doing a month of fiction and posting it on this blog horrifies me (I actually briefly considered it last week, when I saw on Suzanne Kamata's blog that May is Short Fiction Month, and immediately un-considered it). Maybe I should apply Sage's advice and write a horrible short story and then move on.
I'm enjoying Writing the Life Poetic immensely. I'm on Chapter 32 now, which means I've read slightly more than one a day all month, and I have another month-and-a-half worth of reading left. I haven't done all of the exercises; in fact very few of them, but every chapter has informed my writing in some way, and I've returned to several of them to reinforce certain ideas or techniques.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm giving away one copy of Writing the Life Poetic to a blog reader. Each comment on any post with "Month of Poetry" in the title counts as one entry. I'd like to clean a few of these poems up and send them out in the world, and I need you help, so for two additional chances, leave a comment on this post telling me what you liked (which poem(s) or even just a line or phrase that caught you or some overall comment) and/or what you didn't like (which poems should go back into the closet, what are my annoying and overused techniques, etc.). I'll accept comments (on any Month of Poetry post) through Friday, May 6 and announce the winner next week.