Someone asked me about my process for writing the poems during NaPoWriMo, which is National Poetry Writing Month, ie. April.
The first year I did this, 2009, it was a real struggle. I was just seeing if I could do it at all, mostly, and made it, but barely, and filling the gaps with a lot of very short haiku. This year, 2010, has been more complicated.
I don’t start them until after my son has gone to bed, so these are tossed off quickly, without much advance thought, with no preconceptions or idea what I’m going to say before I sit down. I won’t even have the title or theme in mind before I start. I usually spend about an hour, and write them in a deep sleepy incoherent fog.
The idea of using Creation as a month long theme was also a gift. A neighbor is cleaning house before retirement and trying to lighten the load of things she has loved over the years by finding homes where they will be loved. She thought a photobook on The Creation by Ernst Haas was a good fit for me.I was bracing myself for NaPoWriMo coming, looking at the pictures, and then thought, “Wait a minute. This would make a good theme for NaPoWriMo. It gives me a ‘cheat’ too. If I can’t think of anything to say, I can look at the pictures, and I always find it easier to write from a visual cue.”
This is why I say they are an act of God. Now how unlikely is that, for someone whose name I don’t even know to give me a book on the bus? I look to small unlikely events in my life like that as prods from God, or clues as to evolving shapes in the flow of life. Also trends and patterns. I’ll interpret, try out an action in response. If the action seems to flow and work well, then I guessed right. If not, I need to go back to the drawing board and ponder some more.
With the poems, I am purely astonished they actually get written. I don’t have high expectations for them, and don’t expect them to be consistent quality, but I hope that they don’t embarrass me too badly. Some of them probably will, but, as will any trial, you keep trying and pushing and get through it, one way or another.