Last month was the 4th year I celebrated National Poetry Month by participating in the April Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge. I wish I could say writing 30 poems for 30 days gets easier with time, but it is marathon writing experience. There’s a point in the month where I hit the wall and I have to push through. Fortunately, I’ve got a crowd of supporters whose words of encouragement keep me going until the end–which brings me to the first lesson from this year’s challenge:
1) Let MORE people know you’re doing the Challenge: Back in November, I made a public promise to share the April PAD poems on this blog and I’m so glad I fulfilled that promise. Posting the poems here introduced me to a lot of other poets and lovers of poetry who left comments or started following my blog. And I started to follow a few new blogs myself.
2) Work can be your muse: As a double-life poet, I didn’t have time to start writing once the prompt went up on the Poetic Asides blog; I had to get through an 8-hour work day first. Fortunately my “work husband” and other colleagues were more than happy to help me figure out what to do with the prompt, particularly the <blank> prompts that came out on Thursdays. My colleagues filled in the blank for the poems on day 4 (Hold that Hot Potato) and on day 11 (In Case of a Wild Hair), and work was clearly the subject of Day 15 infested poem, “During the Legislative Session” (my boss’ favorite).
3) Play with form: Sunday prompts in April were the time to use a specific poetic form. I was introduced to the sevenling, the senryu, and the shadorma, and wrote my first real sonnet (iambic pentameter and everything)! I also wrote in two of my favorite forms–the villanelle and the pantoum–and tried a bop. Writing in form makes me focus on the essence of the poem, which helps me tighten the language and imagery.
4) Be prepared to write anywhere: I usually have my journal, but I don’t carry it with me all the time. Bringing a mini-notebook helps, so does the pad of scratch paper at the office and the iPhone Notes app. Inspiration will come at any time–even at milongas!
5) You will lose sleep: I promised myself I wouldn’t go to sleep before I sent out a poem, which meant some nights I didn’t get to bed until after 2 AM (remember those milongas?). Only once did I fall asleep while composing a poem, but I woke up at 1 AM to finish it. As much as I love sleep, sacrificing a few hours was worth it. Besides, May is a great month to catch up on sleep!
If you have any lessons learned from the PAD challenge, let me know by leaving a comment.