Poem a Day Challenge

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Here we are, almost at the end of my month of challenges. It also happens to have been a month in which I’ve maxed out my time to work with clients. Not using that as an excuse for being behind! This whole month of challenges has been a practice in acceptance and noticing and letting go and allowing things to be. I guess on some level I had prepared myself for all of that.

I think there is more to writing poetry than there is to penning novels. With novels, there are characters, plot, setting, point of view, a bit of proper grammar, theme, tone, and the ability to put word after word at least 80,000 times. Some people are really good at this, others not so much. Every writer I speak with or read about has a different approach to writing. Some work a lot on craft, are organized, have outlines, and are fine with a multitude of rewrites. Others, like myself, are pantsers. We write what comes to mind, in a linear fashion, from beginning to end, and may or may not delete scenes or change them around. Fiction, and some nonfiction, tell a story. They have a beginning, middle, and end. Not so with poetry.

I have a few books on the craft of poem writing. Mary Oliver has risen to the top and has several books on not only her own poems but also on how to craft poems. I have never taken a class in writing poetry. There are many times that I didn’t “get” poetry when I was in school. There are more ways to comprise lines and stanzas than I ever thought existed, and it can be overwhelming. I’ve played around on my own with end rhymes, parts of speech (verbs ending in -ing), and syllabication. The challenge that I’ve engaged in this month through Writer’s Digest senior editor Robert Lee Brewer, not only gives prompts each day, but has several posts on the types of poems one may write. I haven’t read through what he describes, but it will be something that I’ll investigate after this month.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the prompts Brewer has offered. What has surprised me some is the content of my poems. When I work on my manuscripts, I might reread the last line I wrote, see what my Muse gives me on my movie screen, and then write from there. With the poem prompts, the words that come are based on somewhat recent events in my personal life. Because I don’t believe there is much separation between characters and a writer (at least between my characters and me), I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting these poems to be cathartic. I had thought the healing was complete. When I haven’t written about the past, I’ve dived into the present. It’s emotional. And because it seems like “an inside joke”, I understand now why I don’t “get” so much other poetry. Some of it is beautiful. Some of it clearly depicts a setting, or an action, or a mood. A snapshot, a moment in time. A few of the poems have rushed from me as quickly and easily as my past novels. Some have taken an hour to write as I search my brain for the right syllabication or rhyming word, deciding where to end the line, when to begin a new stanza, and sometimes even where to end the poem when I’ve said all I need to say about it at that time. I haven’t reviewed them to do any editing. The prompt for today is to take at least one poem and remix it. If it’s a cinquain, change it to a free verse or prose, or make the rhyme aabaab . . .

I’ve learned that I enjoy writing poetry. The previous two books of poems I’ve written have been centered around a particular content area. I didn’t expect this month of poems to be the same, but the theme centers around heartache and a reawakening of love. I’m not sure I’ll publish it as a chapbook as it seems to be more personal. Not to say that others couldn’t relate, but it will take some courage for me to share all that I’ve written. What I have decided to do is copy the poems over into an art journal. Something to commemorate my first Poem a Day Challenge and the fact that I met that commitment. I have enjoyed sitting with the special journal I purchased and had waiting for just this opportunity, and I plan to continue with writing a poem a day. I’ll dig out my craft books on the different types of poetry and play around with prompts and styles. A daily challenge, and perhaps a daily balm to whatever life bubbles up.

Including today, I have 6 more poems to pen to complete the monthly challenge. I’ll edit them, use some art supplies to decorate a journal, and if I feel courageous enough, share the book with others. Below are two of the poems from this month that are a bit less personal. I welcome any comments you may like to share.

Have any suggestions for poem prompts? What writing or creative challenges have you met? Share in the comments below. If you’d like to see more of my poetry, there are a few on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com

“The Last Time I Was Here”

A piece of the Sonoran Desert in the middle of the city

Wildlife seeks shade in the heat of the day

Cactus wren with spotted tail calls from a staghorn

Gamble’s Quail with proud top knot hurries across the trail

Whiptail lizard with cocked head, surveys the threat, scurries to the dark side of a rock

The last time I was here Earth Mother spoke to me

“Have courage my child, and trust. All will be well.”

 

One month shy of three years, I’ve returned

Barrel cactus has grown another four spines

Mesquite has produced pale lavender blooms and sweet bean pods each year of my absence

Mineral composites upon which I sit has eroded one-tenth of one-millimeter

Disappointments and changes in my human existence, my bravery, fleeting; trust, drained

I finally heed the call of Earth Mother thrumming in my veins

This time when I am here, She repeats

“Have courage my child, and trust. All will be well.”

 

“The Other Cheek”

Through her own sickness

sense she tried to make of her life

Failing that, I received a majority of rage, confusion, shame, daily frustration

flung like so much bullshit, a blender on high without the lid, tainting all it touched

Often unexpected, an expert at tip-toeing across acres of eggs

my first attempt at sixteen to ban myself from emotional roller coasters

I turned the other cheek

 

A series of three lovers, all beginning with kindness

one too young to realize what he had, the second not able to love to the depth I thought I required, the next

was deep in love and pain so much like her, it felt comfortable

They and I did what we could, with a heart full of scar tissue

I turned the other cheek

 

A career built from the need to help, we work from who we are inside, one damaged would always recognize another

Knowledge and experience grows a life, consumed to make oneself enough

degrees and accolades, a sense of validation, only masks the lack, the emptiness inside

Walking away to stand on my own

services offered to individuals, a happier existence than the chaffing of shackles

I turned the other cheek

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