Monday, May 5, 2008

The Poetry Month That Was

During April, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I participated, along with four poets (graduates/students in the Stonecoast MFA program), in NaPoWriMo. It's patterned after NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, which challenges thousands of participants to write a first draft of a novel in 30 days. We aren't quite that insane, but did take up the challenge of simply (well, not always so simply, as it turned out) writing and then posting one poem a day. We elected to do our NaPoWriMo in a private blog, but apparently many others did so publicly.

The other participants are real, bona-fide, published, accomplished, dedicated poets, who graciously allowed me – a nonfiction writer who occasionally enjoys experimenting with poems – to play in their sandbox. From time to time, one or a few of us fell behind, but we all always got caught up somehow, shared some great dialogue by commenting on one another's poem-posts, and ended the month, I think, enriched as writers for the experience.

Now I've been tagged with a meme to share my NaPoWriMo thoughts, so here goes:

1. Number of poems written in April.
- 28. Okay, I know April has 30 days, but there was some cross-country travel (for a not-fun reason), fatigue and worry; I made up for it with two longer poems the next two days. Sue me.

2. Number of poems you’ll keep and revise.
- Right now I think about six are worth further work. Wonder what I'll think in another month? I am one of those writers who can put something away for months before revising it; and often I decide something is too dreadful to even think about again, and "lose" the folder. Then I rediscover it, usually by accident (or is it?), months or even years later and take another look.

3. List the titles of your top three NaPoWriMo poems (written by me)
-The Cooks on TV
-Walking to the Bagel Shop with my Son
- My Father's Hand
- The Stresslist (which
Raye Tibbitts is publishing next month in the final issue of her cool zine, The Bad Mother Chronicles.)
Oops – that's four. Sue me.

List your three least favorite NaPoWriMo poems (written by me)
- Protection (I felt like hiding my head after this one!)
- Hats (silly but not silly in a well-written way)
- Hand-Me-Down (actually I think this has potential, but I disliked the attempt)

5. Favorite line from one of your NaPoWriMo poems.

rests her hand on her child's back

watches it, rising and falling. And

she sleeps at 6:28

just before the vomit splashes

her cheek.

6. Favorite poem by a NaPoWriMo participant. Sorry, I'm going to list my favorite poem by each participant.

- Carol Berg: The Quidnuncs in my Kitchen
- Kathleen Clancy: How do you say no to the freeway?
Mary Harwood: Sweet Sixteen
Bridget Madden – some silliness for the desert (3/24/08)
And thanks, Bridget, for introducing me to the very poetic term, ekphrastic (a poem about visual art)

What surprised you most about writing a poem a day?
- That I would look forward to it; that one poem often led right to another on a similar or related theme; that on some days even a really rough (terrible) first draft took longer to write than I anticipated, while on other days, it leapt from my pen nearly before I noticed; and finally, that I would so look forward to reading all of the other participants' poems. No day in April was complete without checking the blog numerous times to see what was new.

8. Now that you’ve started the momentum, what’s next?
- Good question. Still have a final nonfiction prose thesis manuscript to complete (only if want to graduate with an MFA in July!). I think I'll put it all away for a while: weeks for sure, maybe months. But I may keep up the poetry habit, because while I know I will never be half as good a poet as a nonfiction writer, there is something about the way my brain seems to work when in poetry mode that is so different than it does when in personal essay or memoir or OpEd or feature-article mode.

Plus, I really love to pick up my favorite pen (a black Pentel Metal Tip 0.7 mm EnerGel Liquid Gel Ink), grab a notebook, sit quietly (anywhere) and write…well, something that resembles a poem. Thought it may never exist as one, it still spurs me on to some new way into a piece of writing.

If you had any good experiences during National Poetry Month, or with poetry in general, please let me know in comments.

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