I’ve known for a few years about NaNoWriMo, which is an initiative would-be fiction authors participate in to provoke a creative burst. The idea is that over the course of a month, you spew out 50,000 words of what is probably drivel in hopes that you can eventually find some kernel of decent fiction to build on. I’ve already got 90,000 words of drivel striving from the bottom of a drawer somewhere to be the first quarter of a novel, and though I once thought about doing NaNoWriMo and even committed 5,000 words or so to disk, I never bothered to finish.
Via a newfound acquaintance’s blog, I learned this week of NaPoWriMo, a rather less organized and ubiquitous gesture in the same direction. Except that in this case, the medium is poetry. April is National Poetry month (the six people in the world interested in poetry suggest as much, at least), and so April is the month designated for this little endeavor. The project? Write a poem a day each day in April.
On the surface, this seems simple. Roses are red, violets are blue, here’s number one, next, number two. At the very real risk of sounding like an ass, I’m going to suggest that writing poems as something like art tends to take a bit more time and mental investment than it took me to come up with that example. When I was studying this stuff formally in college and liked to puff myself up and feel important about my work, I’d think about Yeats’s quotation to the effect that “a line will take us hours maybe.” If it takes a guy hours to write a single line of poetry, then a poem of more than a few lines must be quite an achievement indeed, right? Therefore my work must be pretty impressive. I guess that’s how it went. I’m sure I was all hand to brow when I thought about Yeats’s line (wonder how many hours he spent on it?) and my contribution to letters. That big digression ventured in order to not seem so pompous now as I probably did when I was younger, I’ll nevertheless propose that writing really tolerably decent poems does take some time. So while a poem a day sounds trivial, for anybody who’s interested in real craft and doesn’t just have a really astounding natural gift for it, writing a poem a day is really pretty darned impressive.
Of course, the original NaNoWriMo stresses quantity over quality. It’s about germination more than about maturation. A fragment or draft a day is somewhat more attainable than a polished nugget of wisdom laid across fine images and tight metaphors a day.
Real life permitting, maybe I’ll try it. I have been more inclined of late to try to write down some little poems (and some bigger ones). I spent two hours tonight on 84 lines that suck but may be a move in a direction toward something that sucks less.
A line will take me 1.43 minutes maybe.