Last month was National Poetry Writing Month – NaPoWriMo. I decided to commit myself to writing and posting a poem every day for 30 days. I joined a NaPoWriMo Facebook group of a dozen or so poets whose work I admire, and warned my family and friends that I would not be fit to live with for the next month.
Ordinarily, writing poems comes last, after other commitments are fulfilled. Which is why writing retreats are so important to me – when I’m far away from home and can’t take care of other things even if I wanted to, I’m free to focus on writing.
But I want to be able to write at home, too. And I thought that committing to NaPoWriMo – making it my priority to spend whatever time it took to generate a new poem and work on it, at least enough so that I could bring myself to post it for others to see – every day for a month – might be the boot camp reorientation practice I needed.
I don’t work quickly: it takes me a very long time to discover where a poem is trying to go, and how to open space for it to breathe. So would I be able to let other things go during NaPoWriMo and make writing poems my job?
The answer is that it was hard and I struggled with old habits every day. Every evening I felt that I had accomplished nothing during the day, because I had made writing a poem my priority, and that ended up taking so much time and energy that I did very little else.
But it was great discipline. And it gave me the excuse I needed to ignore the inner ringmaster and do what is, in truth, far more important to me.
So NaPoWriMo was a start. I’m trying to keep it up, keep going – if not a poem each day, a poem or two a week? Maybe?
About half the poems I wrote in April are worth continuing to work on. There’s energy there, something calls me, some mystery. The rest are not interesting, which is fine. Writing to prompts was good exercise.
Here, however, is the poem I wrote the very first morning of NaPoWriMo, after an uncomfortable and mostly sleepless night. It’s called
Day One FAIL
In the middle of the night sometimes
it’s like a party upstairs and me
just wanting to go to sleep.
They start with the bad jokes.
Like last night it was, “Don’t call us ‘Dead,’
call us ‘Otherly Living.’”
Oh, they cracked up
at that one. Of course
I was wide awake by then.
“No, dammit!” I grabbed the notebook
back.“This is my notebook!
Oh, go on, write it down, you loser!
“Otherly Living! Hahaha!
It’s a great line!”
So here it is. Be my guests.
First day of poetry writing month,
everything hurts, no sleep, and this
is what I’ve got? “Otherly living?”
It’s fine for them to be up
all night, but I’m still running this old
rattletrap, baling wire and duct tape,
due for a change if you know
what I mean, anyway it needs sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m game for an all-
night adventure once in a while,
but for godsakes, guys, let’s make it
something I can write home about.