To NaPoWriMo or Not To NaPoWriMo? — That is the Question.

Like most writers I know, I have an abundance of books. Some would say too many, but we all know there’s no such thing. And now, just as I did when Vincent first became mobile, I spend altogether too much time rescuing my books from Aidan. As I skid the wood floors from room to room in pursuit of the toddling mischief-maker, Lance can be heard grumbling sotto voce, “Do you have to have piles of books on every table in every room?” Well, yes. Obviously.

One side benefit of Aidan’s attempted book-savaging and my just-in-time salvaging, the only benefit that I can see, is that he discovers books I’d forgotten I had, that I haven’t read in a while that I may now read with a new eye. Case in point: Wild and Whirling Words: A Poetic Conversation, moderated by H.L. Hix.

Hix wondered, what would poets say about other poets’ poems if they were being honest? And how could he encourage that honesty and conversation across the different poetic camps? His imperfect but rewarding attempt is this: [from the back cover] “H.L. Hix invited thirty-three of America’s finest and most influential poets, representing diverse backgrounds and approaches, to engage in a conversation. Each volunteered an original poem, which Hix circulated anonymously among six of the other poets. The poems and responses progressed from poet to poet — unfolding, complicating, and sending up sparks of insight, of opinion, of disagreement.”

Participating poets include Carol Frost, Cate Marvin, Bin Ramke, Annie Finch, Paisley Rekdal, Michael Waters, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, A.E. Stallings…and more! It’s a really rich sampling, and bears multiple readings, preferably years apart: time enough to have forgotten the poets & poems, and to have deepened your own reading & poetry practice, so that you return to the poems and the responses with a fresh perspective.


To answer the question — am I going to NaPoWriMo this year? — is difficult for me. Completing last year’s challenge, actually writing 30 poems in 30 days, was so exhilarating! And a large part of the zest of it is being among the larger NaPoWriMo community, all of us plugging away at our poems & postings.

But part of the purpose of participating for me was reintegrating a regular poetry practice into my utterly changed & expanded life. Which I have been pretty successful doing: I’ve written more this past year than the previous five years combined.

So my focus this NaPoWriMo will be to continue as I’ve been, and making good notes of all those ingenious prompts on offer. If there’s anything I truly want to improve, it’s the time I spend reading and re-reading.  So many books!


Speaking of National Poetry Month: we’re packing in 2 events over at the Collected Poets Series to celebrate, so go on over, check it out, and come if you can!

Also, if you haven’t yet taken advantage, I’m participating in Kelli Russell Agodon‘s Poetry Giveaway for National Poetry Month. Leave a comment here to be entered in my giveaway — you could win any one of THREE items!

NaPoWriMo Recap.

Even though I spent many April nights (after a good first week of finishing drafts by 3pm) falling asleep with a pencil in my hand, these last few days of not writing have felt strange.  The brass tacks:

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  1. poems written: 30.  THIRTY!  I’m totally thrilled.
  2. how many written that are keepers: 26.  I may actually be able to save the other 4 as well, but right now I don’t love them enough.  And of those 26, I’m feeling that only a few require substantial revision.  But this is due entirely to the fact that I worked more and more on them before posting, thus the late nights dozing with a pencil in my hand.
  3. how many days I will wait before starting to submit: 0. I began the process this weekend, after spending Friday immersed in 30 poems in hard copy.  I LOVE to submit, love choosing the journals (and I subscribe to a boatload), the frisson it brings to the act of checking my mail, both virtual & actual.  Even if I only have 3 worthy poems, I always have submissions out there circulating those 3 poems.

Now,  having been able to complete this NaPoWriMo challenge, after not writing much at all during the last year, begs the question:  why can’t I write this much all the time?  And I think the answer has to do with NaPoWriMo being such a widespread community affair.  Making this pledge, and being among a group of others doing the same, gives you an impetus you don’t have normally, and makes you accountable in a unique way.

And one of the reasons to take part in NaPoWriMo is to give you that kick in the pants.  By forcing myself to find the time every single day to write a brand new poem, I’ve hopefully taught myself new ways to write.  And I’ve learned that I can actually write with a baby in my lap.  And on little sleep.

But I couldn’t write this much all the time, the wells run dry.  I need time to read, too, and writing this much means not much time left over to recharge, or revise.  Not to mention my poor poetry widower/husband.  But that’s the grand thing: I’ve toned up my writing muscles, and as long as I work on my writing every week, that’s good enough.  And now I know that however busy I am, I do indeed have the time!

NaPoWriMo Draft 30.

This is it, the final draft, the 30th poem in 30 days, the end of NaPoWriMo 2009. I’m going to take a couple days now to go over all the drafts, all my thoughts, and rest my weary writing head/heart. Thank you for reading this past month, it was a great & productive experiment for me, and I hope just as much fun for you. Upcoming attractions include a NaPoWriMo recap, and a post regarding my inevitable seduction by Facebook. Please feel free to share any thoughts you have or had about this past month of poetry below in the comments, I’d love to hear anything you have to say. And now, without further ado:


NaPoWriMo Draft 27.

Because it would be wrong to simply coast through the finishing line these last few days of NaPoWriMo (only 3 days, 3 poems more!), I set myself the task of using the abecedarian form, slightly adapted, for today. Instead of 26 lines, each beginning with the next letter of the alphabet, I have compressed it into 7 lines. It is probable that I will never do this again.