100 days & NaPoWriMo

It’s (almost) here! Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo! And the good folks at The Daily Poet 2 have linked to my prompts from last year (many of which were from the first edition of The Daily Poet), and so I’m going to use those too.

Can you write a poem a day for 30 days? Sure you can!

Back on January 20th, I joined some other friends in an effort to write a poem a day for the first 100 days of the current administration. I made it to Day 50, and then I missed four days. But I started back up, and just passed day 70 yesterday. At the beginning, this seemed impossible—and exciting (as well as therapeutic; as I’ve mentioned before, some of those poems were not nice). At about day 40, my inner needle was tilting more toward impossible. But here are some things I’ve learned about endurance:

You don’t have to think of it as Great Art. Instead, try thinking of your daily poem as a practice. You show up. You write. Some days you might feel brilliant, in the zone, have lots of time to review and revise. Some days you don’t. Lower your standards. (Thank you, William Stafford!)

You don’t have to start with The Poem. If any of the prompts you’ve found aren’t inspiring you, start with a list. If that doesn’t get you started, take a look at the words in that list. What words can you put with them?

A poem doesn’t have to be long. A couplet works. Two lines. You can do this.

Take a walk. Look around. Be sure to bring a notebook and a pencil or pen.

What are you feeling? Recently, Bethany Reid wrote a wise and helpful post about feelings. Often, I turn away from mine. And although I’m happy to chat about craft anytime, and I think that craft can play a big role in revising, I’m more and more convinced that feelings are what fuel my best poems. It starts there and then moves into a word, into an image.

Most important, have fun! Be generous with yourself. Even if April is the cruelest month, we can revel in words and breathe deeply this new spring.

April 30 prompt: End on an up note

April’s final prompt, again from The Daily Poet, is called “A Life Worth Writing About”: Write down three things you did yesterday, in great detail—sounds and smells, tastes and textures, as well as the visual. Write a poem about one of the things, or write a poem in three sections, with one section for each thing, or braid two or three of the things together.

This is not the end

How has the month gone? Did you write any letter poems? I confess that I’m a little behind, and I’m committed to catching up. If any of the prompts have worked for you, feel free to leave a comment (let me know that I haven’t been blathering on into the darkness—or perhaps I have).

If you’ve checked in during the month, you’ve seen quite a few prompts from The Daily Poet. Many thanks to Two Sylvias Press and to Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano for this book. If you don’t already have a copy, keep it in mind as you write into May.

You can revisit these prompts, check out prompts from previous years, try prompts on Poetic Asides (after the challenge, the prompts remain) and Chris Jarmick’s site POETRYisEVERYTHING site. Visit Tweetspeak and sign up for their newsletter to receive  prompts.

Or write without prompts. Be open. Read as much as you can. Be ready. For me, this is hard sometimes, but when that poem is tugging at your sleeve, when that poem is whispering—or yelling—in your ear, pull over to the side of the road and honor what you’re given.

Be well. Keep writing. Let me know how it goes.

April 29: Your other shadow

Yesterday we wrote about our real shadow on the ground, or at least that’s where we started.

Now, let’s write about a different shadow, and we can start with these words from the playwright August Wilson:

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

From The Poet’s Companion, write about your shadow, what Robert Bly has referred to as “that long bag we drag behind us.”

First, to warm up, write something that you would never show to anyone. Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux say, “Get it out, as much of it as possible, in as much shameful or horrifying detail as you can manage. Afterwards, feel free to tear it up or burn it; the exercise is successful if it has enabled you to get in touch with that place in yourself.”

Next, write a letter to your shadow as a specific being–with an appearance, with habits. Or describe your shadow’s reactions to specific actions that you perform. The book lists “tucking in a child, making love, going for a walk, writing a poem.”

April 28 prompt: If there is sun…

Today’s prompt, again from The Daily Poet, is to write about your shadow and describe the shadows around you. What do you see? The Daily Poet: “If you want, take it a step further, describing the shadow your father casts upon you or your shadow self.”

If it’s a gray day, this might be hard. If you’re in an area with streetlamps, go for a walk in the evening.

April 27 prompt: It’s a process

Today, write a poem using words from a different process.

Start by making a list of those words. Now, start by choosing a process or discipline that you love or dread. The Daily Poet talks about using words from math. I recently wrote a poem using words from sewing. Or you could use words from a recipe, manual, or field guide.

After you have your list, use it to write about something else.

(The “something else” might be writing a poem. What other else could it be?)