A Poet's Double Life

For poets working outside the literary world.

Lessons Learned from the November Poem-a-Day Challenge


For the past three years, I’ve done the poem a day challenge for National Poetry Month in April. But at Cave Canem , I learned about 30-for-30–writing a poem a day in the months with 30 days (April, June, September, and November)—and decided to give it a try.  Here are a five things from this experience:

 #1:  November is a good month for the challenge. It is far enough away from April (sorry, June) and not crazed with poetrySpark like September. Also, doing a PAD challenge in November is a show of solidarity with my prose-friends attempting to write 50,000 words in a during NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. I’ve decided to do the challenge in April and November from now on.

 #2:  It is impossible to do a PAD challenge alone: Although I was only one among my local poet-friends doing the PAD challenge out of season, I discovered that the Poet Laureate of Rockland Maine was doing the challenge too. Also the numerous Facebook comments and email responses to the poems reminded me there were people who appreciated that I was writing poems—no matter the month.

 #3:  I don’t need prompts: Unlike the April PAD Challenge, I didn’t follow the Poetic Asides blog. Doing a challenge without prompts meant that I had to be open to the inspiration coming from anywhere: a photograph, an email from a friend during her vacation, or a story I heard

IPhone Poem "At the Bottom of Mercury"

IPhone Poem “At the Bottom of Mercury”

on NPR. When I got stuck, I cultivated those seeds in my poetry notebook, scrolled through my iPhone notes, and found the time to write 5 poems from the list of poems I needed to write. It felt good to finally bring these ideas to life on the page. Now I have something to revise.

 #4: I need to trust that a poem will come out. So much went on this month: the first week of November, my mind was preoccupied with the Hurricane Sandy aftermath in my hometown; the second week, a close friend of the family died and my mother and I attended the funeral; the third week, I caught a cold and had no energy for much of anything; and last week I had a good friend visiting from LA and spent almost every night out. Not to mention that Mercury went retrograde from November 6th-26th, making any form of communication that much more difficult. And I still managed to write a poem every day! You’d think I would have learned this lesson by now, but obviously I needed this experience to become a true believer.

 #5:  I need to share my poetry more: Typically I post the daily poem to my Facebook notes (which can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look) and send it via email to about 30 family and friends who don’t use Facebook. I’ve tended to keep the poems slightly hidden in case I want to publish them later. But I’m having a change of heart. Out of the poems I write during the challenge, I submit about 6 or 7 and they go through extensive revision before I send them out. I’m starting to so I feel okay about posting them to a wider audience, so come April, I will also post the poem-a-day here.

Author: poetsdoublelife

Poet and strategy/data guru living in Massachusetts.

4 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from the November Poem-a-Day Challenge

  1. I admire your productivity and discipline. Waiting in vain for a spark here for several days. My posturing at prose keeps producing poetical possibilities with alliterative allusions always. Need a STORY on this end.

  2. I did like that you shared your poems with us this month. It makes us reflect and look at life, at photos, at disaster in a different medium. Thank you

  3. Pingback: My Half Dozen | A Poet's Double Life

  4. Pingback: Lessons Learned from a April Poem-a-Day Challenge Veteran | A Poet's Double Life

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