As much as I love both reading and writing poetry, I cannot help but admit just how difficult it is to single out a few hours every week to do either. For the first time ever, I chanced upon this project called National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, where participants submit their poems every single day for an entire month, against a set of daily prompts. I did have some patchy “poetry days” here and there February through March, but a dedicated April sounded both tempting and daunting.
I signed up for Ayaskala Literary Magazine’s NaPoWriMo challenge, alongside about 200 fellow poets. The drill was straightforward — we would receive a daily prompt in our mailboxes or on the Facebook group, submit our entries by the end of day, and receive the best poems of the day and a host of special mentions the next day. This is quite different from the poetry writing experiences I have had before. As I enter the month of May, here are five takeaways from this unique, first-of-its-kind experience, in retrospect.
1. Poetry is a practiced discipline.
Most people I meet would compare poetry to a no-strings-attached affair. Prose is the more strenous counterpart. With NaPoWriMo, I could tangibly see the effect of daily writing on my subsequent poems, and how every poem came out better (at least to me) in aspects, such as
- the economy of words,
- the selection of words,
- the flow of language,
- the density of emotion.
2. It is important to READ.
I cannot stress this enough. Thankfully, my inbox would buzz at about 8 p.m. every night with the selections of the day, and I would go through each one of them. Not only was this leisurely fun, but also a great way to learn about contemporary styles in poetry that people are actively indulging in.
Further, I would take time out to read poems from my favourite magazines including POETRY, The Paris Review, and The New England Review during evening tea. My social media handles would load up account suggestions of poetry magazines, and I would read, read, read. This filled me with context.
3. Experimenting is fun.
I had been writing quite linearly before; my poetic style would resonate as a unique signature of my work. With the wide array of prompts, ranging from “write a sonnet” to “write a haiku”, from “connecting across borders” to “write a poem on ‘yes’”, it was impossible to stick to a fixed style because of the sheer variation of requirements out of my work.
My contemporaries would often pick up new styles — both structural and literary, and open me up to styles I was unaware, or even apprehensive of. Non-punctuated? Line breaks? List poems? Funny indentation? Rhyme schemes? Why not!
4. Writing with a community goes a long way.
I know at least ten more poets now who are writing in the same times as I am. I know their favourite poets (thanks to prompts such as “write a poem in response to another poem”, and “fill your words between the first and the last lines of your favourite poem”), the themes they tend to side with, their arrant diversity of styles and voices.
Hopefully, we will stay connected and continue reading each others’ works via online media.
5. Writing is rewarding.
There were prompts that made me think hard. There were prompts that made me introspect moments of my life I would not have otherwise. There were prompts that made me say difficult things, personal or impersonal.
In the fullness of time, I have thirty collected poems that are anything between simple messages to myself and challenges I threw at myself.
Going to bed every day knowing you created art for someone, somewhere in the world, but more importantly for your own sake, is indeed a most rewarding feeling.
[All pictures used in this post are by the illustrator, Nami Nishikawa, and have been taken from Pinterest.]