Write On! Poets
Write On! Poets by Cara Holman
a poem a day
keeps the doctor away
or … something like that
April is designated National Poetry Month. Whether you are a seasoned poet, a poet wannabe, or simply someone who enjoys reading poetry from time to time, there’s something for everybody. Last year at this time, I would definitely have classed myself as a “poet wannabe.” Sure, I had been reading poetry all my life. I’d even tried my hand at writing some (admittedly clunky) poetry over the years. But nothing would ever have induced me to share these novice poetic efforts outside my own family, until I discovered the joys of online poetry writing communities, and poem-a-day (PAD) challenges.
Although I’m fairly sure that PAD challenges abound on the internet, the two I am familiar with are Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides blog, led by Robert Lee Brewer (who is also the editor of the popular Writer’s Market), and Read Write Poem, a poetic community that sadly will be closing its (virtual) doors at the termination of this month’s PAD challenge.
The concept behind PAD challenges is simple enough. Every day throughout the month of April, we get a poetry writing prompt, and then get to have at it. The prompts may be simple (“Write a love poem.”), or more complex (“Using your iPod or iTunes shuffle, take the first five song titles it comes up with, and weave them in , verbatim, to your poem.”) After you write your poem, you post it to your personal blog, or the poetry website blog. As I said, simple enough. Then you get to read and comment on others’ poetry, and wait for comments on your own. The beauty of these challenges is that there are no negatives—poets range from novices to seasoned veterans—but the interaction between poets is always positive. The first time I received a shout-out for my work, I felt like a million bucks. Not all my efforts are stellar, but I’m learning something constantly from reading others’ poems, and receiving feedback on my own, and like any other kind of writing (and in fact, any other kind of life endeavor!), the more you practice, the better you get. Guaranteed!
Last April, I participated in two PAD challenges; in November I participated in the Poetic Asides PAD Chapbook Challenge (resulting in my putting together a small, unpublished chapbook of my best efforts from the month); and now this April, I am at it again, participating in two more PAD challenges. While I still have a long way to go, my poetic efforts this year are a quantum leap from what I was writing last year at the same time. What can I say? I’m hooked on PAD challenges! Check them out for yourself—whether you try all 30 days, or just a single day or two, it feels great just to stretch yourself in a new way. You don’t even have to post your efforts online, but of course if you don’t, you won’t get any shout-outs either.
For a great book on how to get started writing poetry, check out Sage Cohen’s wonderful Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry. Or if writing poetry really isn’t your thing, and you prefer to read it, there are many sites that will send a poem a day to your mailbox throughout the month of April (or you can also subscribe in your Google Reader). My favorite site for this is The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
Happy Poetry Month!
Cara Holman writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Her writings have been featured in many online journals and print anthologies, including Four and Twenty, an online poetry journal. She blogs at Prose Posies.