Participating in competitions of any kind involve difficult and exciting challenges. National Poetry Month, starting this week, materializes into an even greater bittersweet struggle: one in which writing every day turns out to become an ambitious achievement but also one in which you are dedicating yourself, making a promise to yourself, to make the time to set aside headspace, away from the distractions of everyday life, to just sit down, self-reflect and simply write.
The most complex and rewarding aspect of National Poetry Month includes setting a deadline for yourself and having a creative block. “What if I run out of things to write about?” is a nightmarish, ridiculous thought that always creeps into the back of my mind, even when I know it’s not true. There is never nothing to write about. There will always be times when someone might feel inclined to write about family, culture, hometown, scenes of everyday life.
The act of self-discovery involves a scary self-reflection that poetry allows
Other types of works include ekphrastic pieces, where a poet responds in response or in conversation with an artwork, persona poems, which can be about celebrities or Greek God(esses), the erotic, poems about emotions, sensory experiences, stream of consciousness, poems addressing social issues….poems are endless.
Poets.org includes many podcasts to listen to in order to also become inspired. One of my favorite podcasts include “Sharon Olds ‘Advice to Young Poets‘”. Having someone to encourage me, to hear a renowned poet talk about her own sense of lost direction and intimidated sense of self at the beginning of her own process, helps me to overcome my own sense of self-doubt, a major aspect many artists seem to carry around with their works, especially in the initial stages of the creative process.
Really motivating yourself to this challenge could be much easier if you have friends who are also participating. This will create a friendly competition and create a fun way to create discussion dialogue, and enjoyment throughout the revision process.
Another way to engage yourself is to go public events in your town. If there are weekly open mic nights at your local bar or any other places, make the effort to go check them out. Become inspired. Go home and write. Check out contemporary poets. Recently, “International Women’s Day” inspired me to look back to Natalie Diaz, Adrienne Rich, Eileen Myles, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton…these are just a few poets that first pop to mind. Below reflects the poem”Ode to the Beloved Hips”, just to give an idea of how captivating an image can convey just through the first couple of lines of poetry:
Bells are they—shaped on the eighth day—silvered
percussion in the morning—are the morning.
(Check her reading the poem, it’s a completely different experience, she has such rhythm and powerful performative power)
One of the challenges I have decided to take up includes writing 100 lines of poetry a Romantic form-a ballad, a sonnet, or blank verse. This creates a lot of pressure because of the fact that I’m so used to writing in free verse, that I’ve never played around with iambic pentameter and have always had a hard time with that. Having me leave my comfort zone will help me to create a new discovery in the process of a struggle, one in which hopefully I end up learning from.
National Poetry Month really helps anyone who decides to really branch out and leave a certain place that might feel relaxing. The act of self-discovery involves a scary self-reflection that poetry allows, and dedicating yourself to writing a poem for 30 days in a row will hopefully get participants to reach this stage. Not for the scary part, but for the rewarding part that precedes it. The relieving sense of leaving life’s distractions for a while to explore an aspect of life that you may not at first think about or want to spend the time playing over a scenario in your head. Poetry prevents unhealthy rumination by artfully resolving the issue, either through vulnerability or through the honest truth of a moment.
Poetry also allows for feelings of empathy, for an open-mindedness that creates an emotional closeness with individuals, ideas and lifestyles. A healthy way to invoke emotion, contemplation, and incorporate unique experience to the narrative of others. In order to understand one’s story, it’s necessary to understand that as rare as an individual’s life can seem like, a person can feel relieved to understand that they are not as alone as they believe to be. Part of the power of poetry includes having the strength and power to be able to recreate this story and inspire others with invigorating words that speak out to the tragic, exciting, frightening, chaotic and crazy mixture of a thing we call life.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Pascal Maramis.