In the past, after NaPoWriMo was over, I’ve listed the titles of the poems I wrote. This year, I’d rather spend a few minutes thinking about what I learned, and asking you what you learned from writing a persona poem a day–or any poem a day.
I realized and admitted that writing a poem a day is contrary to the way I work. Writing a draft? Sure. But I tend to work even on early drafts over days and days–expanding them out, paring them out. Most things I write in one day feel like thin facsimiles.
And I got behind. You’d think that devoting 20 minutes a day to writing a poem wouldn’t be hard. I want to elevate poetry, and elevating it for 20 minutes seems completely reasonable. But I confess that sometimes I gave the actual writing much less time than that (which means more rewriting later). Sometimes, I was actually writing the poem at 5:00 am the next day (sorry!). And some of that not writing time was taken up by research, which leads me to the next thing I learned, or re-learned.
Research is hard. You’d think I’d remember this from last year’s prompts. Even though I knew my persona before I publicly revealed the theme of this year’s prompts, I didn’t research ahead. That meant a lot of early mornings looking things up on the Internet. Between misreading or misremembering some things and the general diciness of Internet information paired with scholars’ conflicting interpretations, I sometimes found it hard to keep my facts straight.
I also found it hard to balance fact with poem. What does the reader need to know? How much context is required? I love the title of my first poem, “Goodbye, Eddie”–but the poem is about leaving Springfield for Lincoln’s first term as president. I don’t want the poem to have to explain that Eddie is their first son who had died and was buried in Springfield. But without that information, the title doesn’t make sense. Notes, anyone?
And I found it hard to balance the persona’s voice with a poem’s syntax. I’m speaking in a voice, so I feel compelled to make the poem sound like speaking, but then it drifts perilously toward prose.
What did you learn from your month of writing?