The end of one practice…

(Originally posted on Feb. 20, 2019. My apologies that comments were lost.)

Yesterday was the last day of my Lucie Brock-Broido Stay, Illusion practice. The idea was to sit down each day—at my desk, at the gym, on the bus, wherever—read a poem from Lucie’s book, choose a line, a fragment, an image, and write from or in response to it. I started on October 22. I did not show up daily, but I did show up. Yesterday was poem 65. And then a sadness that it was done.

Some of these drafts might become poems. A couple of them already have. One is in active revision. And many are pressed in the pages of my notebook. I’m hoping to get back to them, read and see which ones, or whether any, still ignite some spark worth nurturing.

What did I learn? This worked well for me. Each time, I’d write something. Even if I knew it wasn’t going to turn into anything else, I was writing. Even better, it gave me a chance to sit in active conversation with Brock-Broido’s poems again. My goal had been to choose not just compelling images but those that were difficult or uncomfortable—not the kinds of things that might naturally show up in my poems anyway. And that was the biggest challenge, to tug away from comfort’s gravity.

The end of one practice…the beginning of another.

I want to keep the momentum, to keep the practice going. And in this next round, I want to complicate the challenge, shift the choice by writing only from the first line, and then choosing 10 words to incorporate. But to further avoid bias, the word choices need to follow a pattern—like the first word of the first 10 lines, or the last word, or the first and last words of each stanza. I haven’t tried that kind of constraint before. And what if I get a bunch of articles or prepositions? It’s a learn-as-you-go choose-your-own-adventure, with a minimum of choosing. This morning, I took a new book off the shelf and started with the first poem. It did not go well in terms of stunning surprises, but it did go well in that I showed up. I practiced.

I would also benefit from getting into a revision practice, as I did in Poetry Month 2015. Harder, without that daily thrill of newness, but probably a better strategy for completing my thesis.

How about you? Have you been working or playing a poetry practice this year, or any other kind of practice?