I’ve long loved poetry, but – despite the usual embarrassing teenage attempts – I’ve never much written it. I guess that unfortunate teenage poetry stayed with me; I didn’t want to revisit what I’d written then, and it didn’t really occur to me that (of course) what I would write now would be different.
This changed in 2015. I can’t remember where the idea came from, but in mid-March I embarked on a plan to write a poem a day for thirty days. It was funny timing: my poem-a-day month included the first part of April, National Poetry Month, which I didn’t know when I began; and I discovered, too, that there were others doing poem-a-day.
I learned a few things in doing poem-a-day. First, the only way (for me) to do this was to give up any attachment to the poems being any good. A lot of the poems I wrote in this period were as bad as those I wrote as a teenager.
But I also discovered that – like drawing – writing poetry made me really look at the world around me; it drew me to actively observe rather than passively receive.
And I found, too, that words and rhythm came more easily with practice. I started by writing haiku, because it is short and I knew how. The more I wrote, the more my language naturally came out in 5/7/5. When I decided to try other formats, towards the end of my month, the consciousness of rhythm transferred easily to those as well.
I didn’t stick with poem-a-day after my 30 days were up, but I did keep writing poetry. Mostly it’s still not very good. But the practice of writing it has given me so many gifts, I cannot give it up.