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Trail in a forest; image from Office.com

What’s the next project? The next direction? Where can I go–with poems?
 
I like to work on larger projects or series. I take comfort in knowing what I’m exploring. It gives me a starting point. But when one of those projects feels finished, I need to find another one.
 
Finding the next project shouldn’t be hard, because I make lists and more lists. Subjects that suit my fancy at any given moment. Currently on the list: Chagall, Nijinsky.
 
But does an idea have the power, the pull to go the distance for an entire book or even an entire chapbook?
 
Even with my series tricks, lately I’ve been stalling out, spinning my wheels on the September poems–and then questioning everything I’m working on. Where is that spark?
 
For me, my best poems are the poems I have to write.
 
Into the Rumored Spring was that way–poems saying, “Hey, hey, write me.” Poems waking me up.
 
I’ve been reading Breach, by Nicole Cooley, and I get the feeling that maybe she had to write those poems. They have that kind of urgency.
 
But not every path I start down pulls me that fiercely. Or maybe I’m practicing, trying to learn something new. Even deliberate practice is still practice. Exercises. And can exercises be poems? Sometimes, but they still become isolated as one-offs, not fitting into any bigger picture. (Yes, even though I’m a messy person, I like all my poems to fit in somewhere.)
 
I know writing consistently is important–the practice, the habit. Learning all the time helps me to be ready when I do trip into that next compelling trail to follow. And late this afternoon I realized that I could maybe find that next project by exploring those one-off poems. Maybe one of them is the key to the door to the next adventure.

But for now, I’m going back to the three (!) projects I thought I’d finished–a combination of much self-doubt and wanting poems to work on. I’m writing new poems for those used-to-be-old projects or I’m diving into deep revision on existing poems–trying to keep my voice limber and my skills sharpening. It gives me the comfort of a project and some open space to explore. Which means I never finish anything. And my mom could have told you that.
 
Do you like to work on long projects? How do you discover your projects?
 
Or do like your poems one at a time?
 
Have you worked on a book-length poem? (That might be the best of both worlds, but I haven’t tried to light that fire yet.)
 
And how do you exercise your writing?

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