Friday, September 21, 2007

4 Poems in 21 Days

Well, wasn't I quite the ambitious little monkey at the beginning of September. I should have known better. Here are my excuses (the validity of which I will diminish in a minute): I was sick for like two weeks straight. I had 16 hours of community service. I've had some depression issues.

These are the dumb excuses. They are the kind of excuses that will always exist (read: "Dumb Shit That Gets in the Way of Important Shit") and therefore lose their validity as excuses due to their constancy. It's kind of like saying, "Gosh, I don't have time to do X because I have to sleep eight hours a night. It's really getting in the way of my productivity. Once I don't have to sleep anymore, I'll get it done. Really." Once my LIFE stops happening, maybe I'll have the time, energy, and inclination to write. Fuck that.

But that's not actually the point. I didn't stop writing these poems for the sole reasons of not having time, energy, or inclination. In fact, I made a conscious decision on Day Five to stop. The reasons are as follows:

1) Poems are short; they are not easy. There is a significant difference there that I did not take into account when I started. I never actually thought poetry would be "easy" but I did count on it taking less time than, say, crafting a short story or a one-act play. This was selling both myself and the form short, pardon the pun. Poems are not easier than other forms--they are different. Additionally, they are not necessarily short (though, Edgar Allen Poe recommends that a poem should take no longer than one hour to read [e.g., one sitting]; otherwise, its singular emotional impact is diluted by the sheer event of stopping, then restarting the reading).

2) Poems require as much proofing, editing, revision, and rewriting as any other form of writing, in proportion to their respective lengths. Writing a poem and assuming it is finished is juvenile and amateurish. I did not take this into consideration. Why would I want to end 30 days of poetry writing only to have 30 worthless first drafts? I'd much rather have four polished, revised, finished poems.

3) Poems take as much inspiration and planning as other forms of writing. Emo kids be damned: you cannot expect something to be profound, emotional, or impactful just because it is a poem. I thought this way in middle school. That thinking doesn't hold up now. Random line breaks do not a poem make. Rhyme (or willful lack thereof) does make words into poetry. To write a successful poem, you have to consider--even more clearly than the what the poem will literally--what feeling and thoughts you want your reader to have when exiting your poem. A poem, like other language art, is a temporal journey that has a beginning and end in time for your reader. He will begin to read it, and when he is finished reading it, time will have passed. During this time, more must have happened than him having read a poem--and the poet is the designer of this small fate.

So, in fewer words, I wasn't giving enough credit to the form, and was probably thinking myself more talented than I really was to be able to write a poem in a sitting and have it turn out as anything more than drivel. I plan to take the poems I did finish and revise and refine them until they're actually meaningful and effective--no matter how long that takes.

As an anecdote, I will share that between Days Three and Four, I lost the poem I wrote on Day Three. It was something to do with the way my computer synchs to the network at my job. I was really quite pleased with it, and really disappointed to think I wouldn't have it anymore. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I wrote it again, as best as I could remember it (I planned this poem in my head before I got it down on paper, so remembering it wasn't too difficult). The next day, when I went back into work, my computer synched properly, and the original poem returned to my My Documents folder. I was elated! I opened it to compare it to my rewritten version.

They were exactly the same.

I thought that was pretty cool. Maybe there IS a sanctity in the first draft. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

30 Poems in 30 Days

A new undertaking, inspired by the recent revival in my writing revelry, and a new and sudden passion (of unknown origin [though perhaps from listening closely too closely and too frequently to Andrew Bird's lyrics]): 30 poems in 30 days. It's kind of like National Novel Writing Month, except it's personal, not national, and it's poems (plural), not novel (singular, or even fractionally singular, being quite possibly unfinished).

I already cheated and wrote one on August 29th, and not one on September 1st, but since then, I've done one a day--that makes four so far. I plan to continue to write (at least) one a day for the remainder of the month. I may or may not post them for your reading pleasure, as some of them are more personal (and/or bad) than others. I may submit some to one or more contests, just to see if I have any idea what I'm doing (I don't). I will submit at least one to the City Paper Poetry Contest.

For inspiration and education, I have actually been reading poetry (never before a pastime or pleasure of mine), including that of Wallace Stevens (thanks to Chris), Thomas Gray, William Blake, Dylan Thomas, and more.

Simultaneously, I am working, story-by-story, through the near-2000-page The Story and Its Writer short story anthology. I am on indefinite hiatus from finishing Moby Dick, whose literary merits do not agree with me (or, vice versa, with whose literary merits I do not agree).

Also, on this note, I have finished the first short story I wrote during the Writers Block meetings. Alas, it is too long to submit to its originally intended City Paper contest (by a formidable thousand words), so I'll be writing another, pithier story, and submitting "Scheme" elsewhere.

Note: Chris and I are still in disagreement as to whether a limerick counts as a poem. Thoughts on this are invited.