NaPoWriMo part 1

April 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

This week I’m thinking about writing a lot. I’ve got an essay deadline coming up, I’m studying for my dissertation, I’m determined to blog every fortnight, and on top of all that, it’s NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month. If you haven’t heard of it, NaPoWriMo challenges you to write a poem a day for the entire month of April. That’s thirty poems in thirty days, and boy is it a challenge! We’re now a week in, and to be honest so far I have found it a slog, with some of my daily writing attempts sending me into bouts of frustration and bad temper.

A lot of that is to do with how hard I find it to fit writing into my work plan properly. Feeling like everything else has to be done before I can sit down to write my poem for the day has meant that it’s often late at night before I start working on it, even though I know that late at night is the worst time for me to get meaningful work done. Last year, when I took a Writing Poetry module at university, I deliberately set aside time to write: writing poetry had a slot in my timetable just as studying for my other modules and shifts at my job did. Because the poetry I was writing contributed to my degree, I felt justified in making time for it in my life, and the fact is that sometimes when we sit down to write there is a feeling that we ought to be doing something—anything—else, like doing the dishes or saving lives or whatever (I was so relieved when my tutor said he felt like this). But you can’t think like that when undertaking a creative project like NaPoWriMo, or putting together a pamphlet or portfolio or whatever form your creative work may take. Recognising that writing is worthy of the same time-management I apply to everything else has always been the first hurdle for me, and one that I sometimes still fall at, as this first week has shown.

Something else I’ve struggled with is wanting every poem to be perfect. Even though I know it’s unreasonable to expect to write a really really good poem every single day, that’s just what I’ve been doing. So after wrestling with a poem for two hours or so I finally finish the draft (key word!), unsatisfied, and huffily save it on my computer, resolving not to look at it anymore. Now though, I’m learning to look forward to going back through my poems after the month is over, when I’ll have time to be a perfectionist about it, and I’ll be able to put that perfectionism to good use as I tidy up and revise the work I have done. If you think about NaPoWriMo in relation to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, whose participants I really admire!) it all starts to make sense: no one is really going to write a novel in a month. What they are going to do is draft a novel, get words down, and later take as much time as they like going back through what they’ve written in order to make it a proper, finished work.

The biggest part of the challenge is, of course, that poetry will not always come ‘as naturally as leaves to a tree’. But that shouldn’t mean, as Keats once wrote, that it shouldn’t come at all! Though there has undoubtedly been great writing that has come ‘inexplicably and without method’ (I’m quoting Stranger Than Fiction now, watch it if you haven’t), just think how little literature there would be in the world if people only wrote when they were struck by inspiration out of nowhere. Don’t let Wordsworth fool you, he had to work at his poems too. If you’re stuck, the NaPoWriMo website posts an optional prompt every day. I’ve used a couple: yesterday’s tritina was great for me because I love a form’s rules to pin down my thoughts, especially when I’m struggling with choosing a subject, but day four’s fan letter to Nick Cave produced rather odd results. The prompt won’t always suit but I’m getting into the swing now, prompt or no prompt I’ve written something every day.

Today’s poem, which I’ll post below, was the product of some reading I was doing for my dissertation this afternoon, but only because it latched onto an idea of ‘audacity’ which has been pirouetting through my consciousness for years. It just goes to show that you should never dismiss your ideas just because they don’t materialise immediately and effortlessly – their time will most certainly come!


That a person can dare to cross over
into death and ask the king for favours;

(Blackbird song bursts loudly from hedgerows;
sensing spring, waking, startling those

not used yet to celebrating light,
still settling in the sunset running late.)

that they can return from that trespass,
make art with secrets rescued from darkness,

and give it to the world before it’s ready,
creating in spite of their tragedy—

the audacity!


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