One month in a poet’s shoes

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2013

Write one poem a day for a whole month? Can I, a non-poet, do that? There was only one way to find out: to jump at the challenge.

Write a poem every day in April — that’s what the annual National/Global Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) is all about. For me, it was a month-long writing exercise, and I want to share my experiences and some of my poems. I usually don’t write poems, but what if a poet is born from this experiment? What if there’s a poet locked up inside me? Maybe she has been screaming at me for so long that she lost her voice and I never heard her. Will she be mad at me and not give me a moment’s peace but keep me forever writing and writing?

NaPoWriMo was founded by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003. She modeled the project after NaNoWriPo (National Novel Writing Month). From a modest start, it has turned into an international event. Bloggers, including WordPress bloggers, from all over the world have published their poems.

I’m a narrator more than a poet, and I usually experiment with short-short stories in which I try to capture the moment, like a street life moment. My poems also appeared to be short — which suits me well as English is not my native language. The shortest poem is my valediction (farewell poem):

FAREWELL

Once I thought

the world of you.

Now I take my leave.

My favorite, however, is this un-love poem, written ten days into the NaPoWriMo:

INCOMPATIBLE

You bring me coffee

and I bake you cake.

I eat your coffee

and you drink my cake.

Then we practice

the art of conversation.

To write a valediction and an un-love poem was just two of the challenges thrown at us. Every day, we were presented with an optional prompt. It could be a certain theme or a form (cinquain, ottava rima, tanka, pantun).

I was surprised by how easily the words or word-pictures came to me, even if I’m new to poetry writing. Sometimes when I write, I construct lines that I’m really satisfied with and I cannot stop smiling. One such line is the one about the lonely saxophone that brushes the day off the night people over at Moody Blues Bar. I wrote it the day we were asked to write a novel noir-inspired poem. Mine was about PI Sam Marley:

PI MARLEY

Into the dark heart of the city, where

                money quickly changes hands

                and favors are exchanged,

                fishnet stockings meet high heels

                under a lamp post,

                diamonds and hearts are shuffled

                in smoky back rooms,

                while a lonely saxophone brushes the day off

                the night people over at Moody Blues Bar –

Sam Marley is helplessly drawn,

deeper and deeper,

until he becomes one with its beat.

A tanka is a 5-line poem with five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables, respectively. The two final lines should have an unexpected twist. Mine went like this:

BABY SHOWER IN THE GARDEN OF EVE

“Here’s to you, Eve, dear,

and here’s to epidural.”

“To motherhood, Eve.”

At me, they threw an apple.

Ask them why. I’m just a snake.

The most challenging one was the pantun, a 4-liner in which the first two lines appear disconnected in meaning from the last two, but there’s still supposed to be some kind of connection between them. In my poem, the “I” persona is still in her own cocoon, not yet ready to present her colorful cupcakez, be it poems, art, or simply cupcakes, to the world. Sadly, I did not get it the way I wanted:

BUTTERFLIES AND CUPCAKEZ

Inside the cocoon, the butterfly

                awaits its final transformation.

I try to imagine the day when my

                cupcakez are ready for presentation.

I like this one better, with single declarative lines followed by a rhetorical question — at least, that was the prompt:

REVIEW. A DRAFT.

She calls her poems mind bliss.

369 pages of sublime divinity.

Heaven in three verses and between the lines.

So what?

I think I understand what I’m trying to say with this poem — well, I should since I wrote it. There are all kinds of poems: Poems that matter and truly touch us. There are poems that are merely nicely wrapped words, which is apparently the case with the 369 pages mentioned above, and poems that are über-explained. Then there’s the peculiar type of poems about the queerer side of life that puts a smile on the reader’s face. I like that.

It’s about finding your own voice and style, I guess. And if you cannot decide whether to pursue this or that, you can always follow the advice I gave in one of the fortune cookie lines I wrote: “If you cannot choose between London and Paris, choose Amsterdam.”

As for me, I’m not really convinced about that screaming poet inside me, but I have more than surprised myself within my own frame of writing skills. Mission accomplished in that sense.

I had a blast.

Then there’s the dreaded sonnet, of course. Tried that, too: Don’t try to write like Shakespeare

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