I was remiss to have not mentioned earlier that April is National Poetry Month.
Remiss, for had I alerted readers in advance, they could have had the opportunity to take part in NaPoWriMo (formally known as National Poetry Writing Month, but that’s, like, five extra syllables, so no THANK you). It’s OK everybody, I missed that boat when it set sail as well.
Inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which started in 1999, NaPoWriMo came about in 2003 with a somewhat similar, albeit more realistic, mission. NaNoWriMo encourages participants to write a 50,000-word novel, while NaPoWriMo merely challenges folks to compose a poem a day for 30 days.
In January, I interviewed poet and essayist Janée Baugher. Though she claimed to believe “a lot of us … are closeted poets,” Baugher also seemed concerned that “many people find poetry terribly esoteric.”
It’s a good point, because poetry is a unique form of writing, and not something people generally sit down with when they want something to read. A novel is more complex with characters and a narrative, whereas a poem tends to describe a singular feeling, object or situation.
I’ve also heard on isolated occasions that it’s hard to take poetry seriously. Some people I’ve spoken with consider poetry to be mainly an outlet for angsty teenage girls, or a romantic device for boys trying to woo angsty teenage girls; others say it’s intentionally cryptic without possessing any genuine meaning. I’m assuming these people haven’t read much poetry.
The perceived simplicity of poetry may be what keeps it banished to the realm of refrigerator magnet affirmations (though you probably won’t see your grandma making a needlepoint pillow out of an Allen Ginsberg stanza anytime soon).
Poems appear to be one of the easiest things in the world to write, because there are no rules. You don’t have to adhere to anything you’ve ever learned in English class. You can make up words, use punctuation all willy-nilly, throw in words seemingly at random and abandon complete sentences if you so wish. Just ask e.e. cummings (a personal favorite, I might add). The man’s taken more liberties with language than Zsa Zsa Gabor’s taken husbands.
Truthfully, though, I’ve had a hard time of it since I’ve been out of college. I’d once considered myself quite the poet, but haven’t written a proper verse in quite some time. In the past eight years, I think I’ve written maybe only a dozen poems (only one or two of which I’d actually consider good), which is a far cry from the three-a-day I composed back in 2002.
Probably not coincidentally, my best poems came during, and shortly after, I took a creative writing class at Wenatchee Valley College from Gerald Tiffany. Sometimes it just takes the right person to make you perform to your potential. After nearly six years of writing journalistically, I worry that perhaps I’ve forgotten how to write creatively.
Maybe it would take something like NaPoWriMo to usher a wayward poet home. Nothing like a strict deadline to encourage productivity.
A visit to napowrimo.net reveals simple instructions for the month-long endeavor: “Just write a poem a day for the month of April. You can post them on the Internet. You can hide them in a notebook. You can make up a special book just for yourself out of them.”
Now, with all due respect to NaPoWriMo and its predecessor, NaNoWriMo, if a person really wants to write, he/she can do it any time of the year. This is the same issue I take with New Year’s resolutions. Why put off until New Year’s Day what you could do RIGHT NOW?
But clearly, I’m a good example of someone who wants to write, but lacks the proper discipline and organization skills — let alone the proper self-confidence — to go through with a writing project if it’s not assigned to me.
I knew NaPoWriMo was coming up back in March, but it was one of those thoughts that came and went so vaguely that it kept getting ignored. Now it’s three-quarters of the way through April, and I’m too late.
Maybe, just for the slackers, we should hold a BeNaPoWriMo (Belated National Poetry Writing Month) in May. As penance, we have one extra day to write a 31st poem of apology.
I’ll write one on May 1 to apologize in advance for also ditching out on BeNaPoWriMo.
Hey, there’s always BeBeNaPoWriMo in June.
Abby Holmes is a reporter for Go! Magazine and writes about music for her blog, Give It a Spin, on wenatcheeworld.com. She can be reached by phone at 661-6390 or by email to email@example.com.