Last month, I committed to writing a poem every day, and through this task, I learned a lot about my writing self. And, nah, I didn't write anything brilliant.
I came to grips last fall with the fact that I am a ponder-er or at least that my thought process is ponderous. It takes me a really long time to decide what I think about something. Like when all of my brilliant friends were writing about the election, I was saying, "I can't even" until about mid-January. Or when one of my amazing colleagues stands up for something really important in a meeting, and I'm like, "Damn! Right!? I wish I would have thought about that glaring objection!" I will never be able to do those things quickly.
Anyway, I sort of knew that this applied to my writing. For example, I have never really been an "everyday writer." I do not sit down, like some of my most-talented writer-friends, and scrawl iambic lines of verse every day (although I really respect their process and commitment, and I think Anne Lamott would secretly hate them with me). That's just not how I write, and trying to write everyday in April reiterated this.
For real. One of the things I learned last month is that sitting down to write every day does not guarantee me a mass of insightful poems (or even a composition book filled with marginally pleasing verse).
For example, this crappy ditty was inspired by what is in my fridge and William Carlos Williams:
April 5: This morning, / I am wishing / for the luxury / of blackberries. / But they have not / been rinsed / or pulled out / to lounge / in the sunlight.
Right? Not super insightful. Not even that insightful when I added line breaks and corrected that verb agreement error. I think I had an equally good time drawing blackberries.
I did have some positive revelations, too.
In addition to learning that writing every day does not create deeply insightful poems (for me anyway), I did learn how much form helps me write consistently. For example, I found pantoum (which is pretty much my favorite anyway) was really helpful in focusing on my thoughts. Basically a pantoum repeats lines 2 and 4 from one stanza as lines 1 and 3 in the next. You can read the full description here if you're so inclined. Usually I start a poem by writing about something weird I see and can't get out of my brain; for example, there was a line of black office chairs at a bus stop on my way home from work, and they will be a poem. But since I don't get this fodder for my poems every day, it was sometimes easier to start with a mantra or thought I wanted to focus on and then just start describing.
In this, I often started with a mantra: "I am here" or "I am okay." And then I slowly moved onto some images. For example, one of my pantoums ended something like this:
I am part of this world. / I breathe the air and sneeze the pollen, / and I am doing everything I can / desperately somedays but always.
I breathe the air and sneeze the pollen, / The dogs chase each other through the poplars / desperately somedays but always. / I watch the irises rustle in the wind.
(Yes, I intentionally displayed all of poems horizontally because I don't want anyone to get any ideas that these are finished at all.)
It's obviously not great, but it's something. Anyway, I also tried haiku, sonnets (of course! but none about my usual roadkill), Roethke's writing prompt according to Hugo, and even a ghazal. It was fun.
The last thing I learned is for sure the cheesiest. In fact, if my friend Jaime were sitting next me right now, she'd be rolling her eyes. "PERMISSION." And I'd be groaning like Tina Belcher: UGH.