NaPoWriMo: day 22

This far into National Poetry Writing Month, I confess that I’m flagging.

I didn’t set out to write a poem a day anyway, but rather to write ‘something’ daily in response to a NaPoWriMo prompt. Some of these may end up as poem drafts, the bulk resigned to bones for future picking over.  Most days I’ve chosen a prompt from Carrie Etter’s list to her Facebook group (whichever as the fancy takes me rather than in running order) and the occasional one from The Poetry School’s daily prompts.

Increasingly, my efforts are late night notebook ramblings, inadequately illuminated by the bedside table lamp.  I tend towards the write what surprises you school of thought but I doubt much of this month’s new writing will elicite a response of ‘Did I write that?!’ when I revisit those pages, months on.  But, hey, writing’s like running: starting never gets any easier.  And so I’ll continue to muddle along in my own haphazard fashion.

Some drafts with ‘legs’:

  • a series of cinquains on the common house sparrow
  • a wobbly first draft on all the pairs of Doc Marten boots I’ve never owned but lusted after
  • a praise poem for the brickfield workers from my village who made some of the decorative bricks for the Barlow Shed at St Pancras station (who knew?!)
  • an unsatisfactory poem re-worked as a prose poem
  • settling on a ‘form’ for a promise I’ve made to myself
  • a few haiku on Spring/bird activity/the weather
  • an elegy from photographs
  • settling on a ‘form’ to write about the most emotive and time-consuming item on our Annual Parish Council meeting agenda
  • a riff on a question from ‘Atlas,’ a Terisa Siagatonu poem
  • a childhood memory from the point of view of one of my younger sisters

 

New discoveries and revisited learning so far:

So all is not lost.

 

Quotes added to my notebook, to reflect on:

To live is the rarest thing in the world.
Most people exist, that is all.

and

We are all in the gutter
but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde

Love makes a mess of dying,
rarifies what you’ve got left and
draws close those for whom you’ve
been essential architecture, each seeking
a totem.

and

…I’m afraid, not of dying,
but of leaving a mess for love.

lines from a Gary Gilbert poem

And one for the wall on a subject close to my heart:

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In other news:

  • 3 poems submitted to The Lampeter Review on the theme of ‘Staying’
  • 1 poem submitted to the Eibonvale Press Humanagerie anthology (submission window open until 31st May: see here for guidelines)
  • I’m considering applying for Halsway Manor’s poet residency (poetry and folk music: my kind of heaven) *self-talking*

 

 

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#NaPoWriMo day 8

How soon the year comes around!  We’re already eight days into National Poetry Writing Month (adopted from the USA, so it’s global, really).

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I’ve joined Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group for the second year running. Last April proved fruitful in terms of new writing and workable poem drafts.  This year, I’m managing to write SOMETHING; although my current notebook’s filling up nicely, I don’t think its contents amount to much more than material for gleaning at the moment (there’s too much annoying life stuff encroaching on my time and sanity).  I like Carrie’s group: mutual encouragement (and commiseration) but no posting of poems (which, from past experience, makes me want to chuck notebook and pen in the nearest wastepaper bin).  And we get all 30 poem prompts in advance, so there are plenty of alternatives if one fails to inspire.  They often spark something surprising that I wouldn’t otherwise have written – which, for me, is the main benefit of taking part – that, and the fact that this ill-disciplined writer actually puts in the time on a daily basis.

I’ve also been busy writing my responses to questions for a Poet Interview series on Bekah Steimel’s blog.  Bekah made contact via the 2018 Poet Bloggers’ Revival Tour and asked if I’d take part.  I’ve enjoyed following the series so far, reading other poets’ featured poems and their responses to questions on themes, the writing process, resources, writing highs and lows, etc.  I’ve particularly enjoyed ‘the one piece of advice you want to share.’  I’ve almost finished writing mine so, if you’re reading this, Bekah, mine will be with you any day now.

This week’s poetry high point was Wednesday evening’s Boating Bards and Buffet, at Every House coffee shop in Burton on Trent.  This one-off event was organised by Gary Carr, who MCs the monthly Spoken Worlds open mic nights I so enjoy.  The format: two featured ‘boating bards,’ Mark Goodwin and Emma Purshouse, and ten open mic ‘support’ poets reading poems on themes of Place, Transport and Navigation; a delicious buffet during the interval.  Unfortunately, Mark had to cancel at short notice due to illness, consequently Paul Francis and I each did fifteen minutes instead of our originally allotted six.  So, for the second time in as many weeks, I was afforded the opportunity to read a selection of poems from my pamphlet, Beyond the Tune, as well as more recent poems.  I ended my spot with ‘Towards a Safe Return,’  shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition, which was judged the featured poet herself.  Emma Purshouse finished the evening on a high, performing poems from The Nailmakers’ Daughters: poems from the Black Country (Offa’s Press) and other poems about life on the canals.  I really enjoyed her ‘Things I Learned from my Maternal Grandfather’ (and its tongue-in-cheek ‘partner’ poem, ‘…from my Maternal Grandmother’) and ‘Flamingos in Dudley Zoo.’   I was pleased that she also read her ‘Specular on the Wolverhampton 21,’ commissioned for the DIVERSIFLY anthology, which I blogged about here.

If you’re likewise engaged in the madness and mayhem of NaPoWriMo, I hope the writing’s happening for you!

 

Growing as a writer

If you’re celebrating all things egg-related this weekend, Happy Easter!  To fellow poetry hedonists, Happy NaPoWriMo (more on this, next week)!

Last Sunday, I granted myself a day off from writing and blog-posting.  We had visitors we haven’t seen for years.  We spent the day catching up.  It was food for the soul.

I’ve not done too shabbily in growing my habit of blog-posting weekly (on Sundays) since last New Year’s Eve.  In terms of growing this teeny tiny blogsite, viewing numbers are increasing but, in the grand scheme of the blogosphere, it’s infinitesimal.  The Insights tool on WordPress informs me that my biggest referrer is Facebook (set to Friends only) so I’ve a lot to learn.  I need a reference guide such as Robin Houghton’s Blogging for Writers, obvs.  However, I don’t want to become a slave to the cause; I’ve already acquired more displacement activities than I care to mention (but they’d make for an interesting blog post, maybe…).

In terms of growing my poetry-writing skills, I mentioned here that I’ve recently invested in two poetry workshops:

Jen Campbell’s online workshop, Poetry and Fairy Tale, was very reasonably priced at £30.  The workshop materials were informative and included several sources of inspiration in terms of poems and links.  There were given two tasks: dissect and comment on one of three given poems (I chose Jaimes Alsop’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’); write a poem based on either a specific fairy tale or using markers from several; one week to complete the tasks.  Jen’s workshop achieved more than I’d hoped for: I wrote two poems utilising Jen’s material and some unsatisfactory drafts from That Unfinished Folder; I was happy enough with one fledgling to submit it for workshop feedback; the other has legs but is still too wobbly on its feet.  Participants received all responses to tasks one and two by email a few days prior to the two-hour (text-only) Skype chat.  Sadly, only three participants were available; nevertheless, the ensuing discussion and comments proved worthwhile.  Jen’s extensive knowledge of fairy tales across many cultures, her insights, rigorous comments and suggested edits on our poems (which she attached for reference) were invaluable.  Details of all Jen Campbell’s writing workshops are available on her website, here (she also does one-to-one workshops by arrangement).

George Szirtes’ face-to-face masterclass, Liberation by Constraint, was facilitated by Writing East Midlands.  At £70, I eventually booked a place after a not insignificant amount of self-talk on the subject of investing in my own writing.  I rarely (if ever) write to form.  If anything, I incline towards Mimi Khalvati’s view (A day to write the poem; a week to find the form, I think) that form emerges in the crafting.  However, I’m interesting in exploring form as a way of overcoming the (self-imposed) barriers to new writing.  With thirteen pages of notes (emailed in advance) as a guide to the structure of the day, Szirtes steered over twenty course participants through his ten-point perspective on structuring poems, arguments for constrained form, breaking rules, and an exploration (with examples) of several set forms: the haiku, cinquain, clerihew, sonnet, sestina and canzone.  A big Ask in just over five hours; nevertheless there was time allocated for several writing tasks and some read-arounds between the teacher talk (which I could have listened to more of, especially Szirtes’ ad lib recitation of lines of poetry as far back as the Ancients).  Will I adopt any of this into my daily writing practice?  Do any of my responses to the writing task have legs?  Do those three-liners I’ve taken to writing in my notebook count?  Maybe.  I do think this masterclass was value for money, though.

In submission news, I’ve sent off a poem for Mslexia’s Themed Writing call-out for issue 79: cooking.  And I think I’m going to submit my poem from Jen Campbell’s workshop here (I’m letting it settle till nearer the deadline date, though).  I also like The Lampeter Review‘s theme of Staying but don’t think I’ve anything suitable (or good enough) at the moment.

Here’s what I’ve been/am reading this week; all are rich nourishment for the writer:

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New on my (rapidly diminishing) TBR pile is Marion McReady’s Melita Hume Poetry Prize-winning collection, Tree Language (Eyewear).  Josephine Corcoran very kindly offered a book swap in response (the only response, would you credit it??!!) to my offer of a (duplicate) copy of Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe).  Good things come in book-shaped packages:

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 Thanks, Josephine! 🙂 x

 

Life after NaPoWriMo

Life (and work) demands have come crashing in, this week.  The house is now ready (or as ready as it’ll ever be) to put on the property market (see previous blog post).  Thursday at midnight saw me stuffing ‘stuff’ into cupboards, clearing surfaces and dusting.  I barely recognise my study!  (See photo below for its usual state of organised chaos).

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NaPoWriMo: the aftermath

I can only hope that the estate agent’s photos do justice to all this hard graft.  Now to keep on top of things, with prospective viewings in mind.  May is my favourite month in the garden.  Everything looks lush and new but brambles, field avens, willow herb and bittercress pop up again as soon as my back’s turned.

Can it really be only one week since the end of NaPoWriMo?  I did manage to stick to writing summat new, daily – usually from a prompt (thanks to Carrie Etter and The Poetry School).  My nightly editing sessions fell by the wayside, though, and I strongly suspect that my best and most fruitful work was produced early on in April.  And I still have pages and notebook pages to go through, at some point.  However, I’m quite pleased with the progress of the 17 poem drafts that did make it onto the PC.

I’ll definitely look to join a NaPoWriMo group next year.  Carrie’s group was an invaluable source of mutual support, inspiration and new-to-me forms and constraints.  I’ll certainly make use of these in future when I’m struggling to get started.

What I’m listening to: ‘Poetry, Pop and Rock ‘n’ Roll’, a two-hour programme recorded for Word Waves on 95.1 FM: three Leicestershire poets – Andrew Button, Maria Taylor and me – reading poems and discussing songs with lyrics that resonate; a kind of Desert Island Discs for poets, you might say.  The links are here and here, if you fancy a listen on Soundcloud (without the song tracks, though, due to copyright).

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Finding poetry in the prose: I’m still reading the Sara Baume novel I mentioned in my last post (I’m either too busy or too tired to do much in the way of reading, at the moment).

Lines I wish I’d written: from Marie Howe’s ‘The Moment’:

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when, nothing

happens

no what-have-I-to-do-today list…

🙂

Out & About: in the garden, today (bramble-wrangling, mainly):

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NaPoWriMo: the home stretch

The sun is shining over the last day of the Leicestershire Easter holidays.  I’ve been sitting by the pond, having forsaken notebook, smart phone and computer screen to compose a poem in my head (see The Poetry School’s Day 23 prompt here).  The cats are gamboling like spring lambs and my husband’s cleaning the kitchen.  There’s poetry and music everywhere, it seems.

What I’m listening to: ‘The Songs & Poems of Molly Drake’ by The Unthanks

Finding poetry in the prose: Sarah Baume’s ‘A Line Made By Walking’

Lines I wish I’d written:

…we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice

from‘Nothing Twice’ by Wislawa Symborska

and, by way of contrast, most of the lines from Kathryn Maris’ ‘Darling, Would You Please Pick Up Those Books?’ (priceless)

Out & about: a walk amongst the bluebells in Swithland Woods with a friend:

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The Easter holiday’s not been all poetry, music and frolics.  Far from it.  For the past two weeks I’ve been doing DIY and cleaning – LOTS of cleaning.  We’re putting our home of twenty-plus years on the market (we’re down-sizing) so there’s lots to do in readiness for agent’s photos and prospective viewings.  And I’m no domestic goddess.

So participating in NaPoWriMo has been balm when all out of elbow grease.  Thanks to Carrie Etter’s Facebook group, prompts from various sources (see previous blog post) and inspiration in unlikely places (clickbait, Monty Don – and DIY/cleaning), I’ve stuck to writing a poem a day for the first April ever.

I really am grateful to fellow members of Carrie’s group; we’ve kept each other going, I think, with progress/process posts and comments, and I’ve also discovered forms that are new to me (yay for the Golden Shovel and the wealth of prompts, techniques, games and writing generators on Language is a Virus!).

I’ve cultivated a daily routine of new writing early in the day and typing up before bedtime to begin the re-drafting process on-screen (where I can faff about and move stuff around – and still be able to read what I’ve written).  I now have seventeen poem drafts in my new sub folder (*pinches self*) and pages and pages more in my notebook which may get picked over/plundered at some point in the future.  So there are poems with wings and lines with legs (or maybe it’s the other way around – time will tell) and probably some with feet of clay.  At least I haven’t left my initial efforts to languish (I’m mindful of that pile of filled-and-forgottens on a shelf in my study).

There’s one more week to go, which won’t be so easy with the start of term in the offing, but the finishing line’s in sight (and, no, I have’t been watching TV footage of the London marathon 🙂 ).

Whatever you’re doing this fine day, I hope that some of it’s the stuff that makes you feel whole.

x

 

NaPoWriMo: 9 days in

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Yes, it’s that merry month of mayhem: National Poetry Writing Month (adopted by more and more poets across the world, it seems).  How quickly the poetry year doth come around!

To be honest, I hadn’t given taking part any serious thought, this year, until Pam Thompson asked if I’d like to be added to Carrie Etter’s NaPoWriMo Facebook group.  I admit I wasn’t too keen, at first.

Previous experience in write-to-a-prompt groups runs something like this: a battery of poems posted hot on the heels of the daily/weekly prompt, followed by a barrage of comments/feedback on posted poems, the (self-imposed) ‘pressure to produce’ something (anything!?! omg…).  On bad days, I’m a virtual wallflower (I was that teenager.  I still hate parties with discos) with an acute attack of Imposter Syndrome.  All this, on a repeat cycle.  The end result: a feeling of ‘Oh, I may as well quit right now…’

The purpose of Carrie’s group is general support, comments on prompts and progress so far.  Poems are not posted (yay!).  Before the month got underway, members were asked to post their one inspirational poem by another poet.  I really liked this idea and enjoyed  discovering poems/poets new to me.

Carrie’s list of 30 prompts appears as a pinned post on the group page.  I’ve printed it off; it’s propped on my desk, along with a month of poetry prompts by Jo Bell, and one or two others.  Just in case I can’t get out of the starting blocks.  And the group’s 137 members seem, like me, to be going about things their own way.  Some are writing to Carrie’s prompts in order, some are choosing ones from the list that spark ideas that day, others (like me) are mixing and matching – or even combining – prompts from different sources, and there are posts about poems that come into being without a prompt.  (I happened upon a blinder of an opening line from clickbait in an email notification the other day).

Some members have different agendas, this month.  For instance, John Foggin isn’t following prompts but is using material from his notebooks to write the poems he feels compelled to write; Rachel Davies is using some of the prompts to add to her sequence of mother-daughter poems as part of her PhD.

Group posts are a real mixture of progress, process, other useful prompts, everyday life as help and hindrance, etc, etc.  These are inspiring in themselves.  And motivational, too.  We’re all doing our own thing.

I’m finding this freeing.  I’m growing a habit of daily writing, even writing first thing in the morning (well, after feeding the cats and making up my breakfast bowl) as opposed to, or some days as well as, my default late evening/night writing.

Not all my efforts have mileage as poems, but there might be lines, phrases, or the odd word to plunder as some point in the future.  That brings me to my next point: what of that accumulation of notebooks I haven’t gone back to for some time now?  They exist as a regular niggle at the back of my mind.  So this month, in addition to The Daily Write in my notebook (no special NaPoWriMo one, just the one that’s currently on the go; no special pen or pencil, just the usual cheapie) I’m typing up and beginning to re-draft the ones I think have possibilities.  To date, there are six poems-in-progress in a new sub folder.  Nine days in, I’m doing okay.

If you’re writing a poem a day, this month, I’d love to hear how you’re going about things via the comments box below.

Happy writing! 🙂