NaPoWriMo or Bust!

Nancy Flynn Apostrophe Blog Archive, Writing

The Apostrophe Blog

Musings on Writing and Life.

So National Poetry Writing Month—shortened to the (to my mind) bizarre acronym NaPoWriMo—is almost upon us again. And, insane as this may be, I am thinking of doing it again this year. Below is a reminiscence from when I tried my hand at daily versifying back two years ago…and some notes from another attempt way back in 2009—

Maybe it was being in the throes of the second full year of a worldwide pandemic. Maybe that’s what caused me to temporarily take leave of my senses and commit to (trying to) write a poem a day during the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) events for 2022. NaPoWriMo is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. NaPoWriMo coincides with the National Poetry Month in the United States of America and Canada. Several other people from my monthly writing critique group had signed on for the marathon so I figured why not give it a try myself?

Way back in November 2009, I challenged myself to draft a poem a day. I’d taken a look at Robert Bly’s Morning Poems and David Lehman’s The Daily Mirror, both examples of how language can flow poetically when you simply commit to doing a poem, day in and day out. Perhaps the ultimate coach for daily poetry scribbling is the venerated William Stafford. Apocrypha has it he woke at 4 a.m. every day and cranked out a piece at his solitary desk. What was it he advised again? Here’s an excerpt from his essay published in FIELD back in 1970:

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them…I get pen and paper, take a glance out of the window…and wait. It is like fishing. But I do not wait very long, for there is always a nibble—and this is where receptivity comes in. To get started I will accept anything that occurs to me. Something always occurs, of course, to any of us….If I put down something, that thing will help the next thing come, and I’m off. If I let the process go on, things will occur to me that were not at all in my mind when I started. These things, odd or trivial as they may be, are somehow connected. And if I let them string out, surprising things will happen. Along with initial receptivity, then, there is another readiness: I must be willing to fail. If I am to keep on writing, I cannot bother to insist on high standards.”

Lowering standards and being willing to fail. One thing that comes with writing so often—you do feel that it is the showing up at the page that calls forth the work, not a muse or inspiration. Of course, it goes without saying that quantity (a poem a day) doesn’t equate with quality in the world of poetry and creative writing. So maybe it’s a fool’s errand to even want to attempt such a thing. Still there is something to be said about making the commitment to sit down, every single day for the thirty days along with many others during the month of April, and make poetry from words, lines, stanzas, space on the page.

In April 2022, I tried my best to keep up. Over the month, I wrote in many different forms including a glosa, a cento, a nonet, and a golden shovel. I recycled a few ditties I had worked on before the merry month of April began. And, of course, I missed a good many days as well. We are on the cusp of the April marathon beginning once more. Not sure if I will want to try again; maybe I could say I am going to write a haiku a day? or some other short form? and leave it at that. Or maybe this year, instead, I will try to read one poetry book a day and write a little book report on each one?

The public domain image above is of a Marathon service station in Findlay, Ohio and was printed between 1930 and 1945.

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