Saturday, April 1, 2017

It's National Poetry Month! A Writer's Spirit Prompt #1

It’s April—National Poetry Month—and I know a lot of poets who mark the occasion with real gusto. 

What I like about this month is how it is so enthusiastically embraced by poets. There’s always a lot going on in April, in a period that is already marked by discontent and resistance.

A lot of causes have their own months, and few are embraced as enthusiastically as ours. It makes me feel a little bad for those others. Here’s a thought: What if we all got together and made one joint celebration out of our April awarenesses? We could stand arm-in-arm to mark National/International Canine Fitness Internship-Awareness Guitar Garden Humor Couple-Appreciation Inventor’s Jazz-Appreciation Soft-Pretzel Soy-Foods Straw-Hat Pecan Welding Scottish-American Safe-Digging Month. Plus poetry, of course. And because no occasion can be fully solemnized without poetry, someone, somewhere is probably nailing down the scansion on a soft pretzel sonnet or a straw hat sestina.

For poets and lovers of poetry, every month is poetry month.

A lot of journals and organizations offer 30/30 projects during this month, and participants write one poem for each of the thirty days in April. I’m trying a new one myself, actually. It’s called the 30/30 Online Writing Marathon from Kenzie Allen and the other good people at Apiary Lit. In addition to prompts, there are creative supports from the organizers and friendly posts from other writers. I’m impressed with the model (and it’s not too late to join at It seems to respect the individuality of the creative process as it encourages writers to adapt or ignore any instructions that are unsuitable. 

Apiary’s efforts dovetail nicely with my plans for this blog for the month of April. The Internet contains so many poetry prompts that we could attack one a day for the rest of our lives and never risk running out. I find that I need something different than an idea for a poem topic, though. I need prompts that cultivate a writer’s spirit.

I’m busy. I teach and parent and grade and blog and try like hell to write, and in the current national crisis I also engage in activism and work hard to keep up with fast-moving news. I don’t always feel like an artist. 

There aren’t a lot of shortcuts for an effective creative life. Honestly, artists need time, and quiet, and rumination. We need the leisure to make a few false starts and to pursue bunny trails we may need to double back from. I feel too busy for that. I have a sense that my time is too limited not to make a go of a creative start, and I certainly hate to waste a day’s worth of writing.

That’s a lot of pressure—to have only a limited time to write and to need it to come to something. This keeps me from being adventurous sometimes, and it leads to an over-reliance on habit.

Because my blog exists mainly as a means of giving myself a firm talking-to, I offer here my first installment of a daily prompt not for a poem, but for a poetic mindset. I’d love to hear how these work for you as the month progresses, so please consider leaving a comment. Also, to be sure that you never miss a prompt, you please consider subscribing to Better View of the Moon.

A Writer’s Spirit Prompt, 4/1:

In a meditation class recently, I got snagged on the idea of the breath as a tether. As I sat straight and tall and breathed deeply, expanding my abdomen like a bellows and then exhaling to a feeling of emptiness (repeat, repeat), the instructor suggested we regard breath as something to hold onto—as a tether that connects us to earth, to source.

Today, try writing by hand, and striving just to keep the pen or pencil in motion over the page. Your arm, too, is a tether connecting words to source, through the arteries—brachial, ulnar, radial—leading blood to the fingers from your earnest, faithful heart. Try to do justice to the nonstop work of the heart, which is sending poetry to the page. If someone were to put an ear to your sternum, they could hear it: poem, poem, poem.

If you are up to the task, try taking the heart’s transcription. Focus more on process than product. Don’t write a poem; try poeming.

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