April is National Poetry Month in the United States, so designated as of 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. With that in mind, for the entire month I will be writing a poem each day and posting it here on the blog. I've considered the concept for some time, but now it feels right.
One may well consider this an exercise in vanity from a man hitting his fortieth birthday next month, and I won't dismiss the notion out of hand. Nonetheless, this blog exists with a primary purpose of exploring improvement in writing. For several reasons, this task should drive this purpose home.
What Is a Writer?
I've seen various descriptions of what a writer is, and all hold water to one degree or another. But the most important aspect that makes someone a writer is not an innate trait, but rather is behavioral: a writer is someone who writes. Daily focused writing improves writing skills. Ideas matter, and ways of thinking about the world matter. Without writing them down, though, the greatest thinker can never be considered a writer.
Poetry in particular seems apt here. Word choice and syntax remain crucial in every form of writing, but nowhere do they as completely define the work as they do in poetry. Writing a poem every day, and writing one I might willingly publish online, will require close care and focus in ways cranking out blog posts might not. Accordingly, this should help me become a better writer.
Building a Routine
I hope in the process of this exercise to better establish my own writing routine. No one feels like writing every day, but repeating behaviors is crucial to turning them into regular activities. Whether this involves daily writing, flossing, or checking of blood sugar levels, repetition begets routine.
Moreover, I hope to demonstrate to other writers the value of a writing routine. I do not expect every offering to have the same value. In fact, I suspect several poems along the way will fall short of what I would prefer them to be. That said, some of my best poems have emerged from prior failures, and other good work has resulted from decisions to change course mid-poem, ending with something almost entirely different in theme or structure from my initial intent.
All of this qualifies as part of the writing process. Just as Edison discovered over 1,000 ways not to make a light bulb, a poet might discover hundreds of thousands of ways not to write a poem. I expect to demonstrate a few of those this April!
Growth from Experimentation
My poetry tends toward the deliberate side, both in the pacing of the writing and the pace at which I write. I do not consider this a weakness, but staying in the same place as a writer can inhibit growth. When I work with writers, I try to encourage them to push outside of their comfort zones, whether on style, subject, point of view, or any other area where they become entrenched. This is an opportunity to do the same, both to improve myself and to show the technique in action for others.
My plan is simple: 30 days, 30 poems. I will comment as I go, building into these posts the context and the thought processes that go into the poetry. Some days may involve ekphrasis, formal verse, or stream of consciousness work, and some discussion of what I am doing and why should add value for readers.
Ultimately, my goals here are to grow personally and to demonstrate ways to grow as a poet. Perfect poetry, to the extent it exists at all, will not spring directly from this project. The value here, as it does in any routine, comes from building and laying bare a process that gives beginnings to what I hope will eventually become strong work.