Yeah, the 200+ writers I’ve joined with continue to outpace me in just about all ways, but I’m plucking along, following each day’s prompt, posting poems, reading and enjoying their work…trying to be a good citizen of our temporary digital artists’ colony.
I admit that a few of the techniques for finding poetry are proving (for me) so constraining as to make it impossible to turn out an arrangement of words I’d even call a poem—witness the “Shake it Up” challenge, which had us draw cut-up words and phrases at random,and glue them down in the order drawn. Call me old school, but I’m just not enamored of disconnected fragments that read like a schizophrenic ransom note.
But that and other challenges—writing a poem made out of text in a menu, signage passed on a walk downtown, another poet’s first lines—have already given me a few insights I wasn’t really expecting…
- That there’s word-level inspiration all over the place — Much of what you see on signs and other so-called public texts is informational and it’s often so standardized as to be ignorable. This must be why it’s so much fun to read signs when traveling abroad—for phrases like “mind the gap” and “way out” (instead of “exit”). But if you take the phrases out of context, they have potential to be provocative.
- That haptic wordplay can lead a writer in new directions — My ransom note poem isn’t any good as a poem, but the physical experience of cutting up the magazine pulled me out of my usual stare-at-the-laptop or huddle-over-my-blank-book method of writing. I was still generating and sometimes that’s all you need to keep moving forward with your writing.
- That many a source text will be chock full of nouns, but short on verbs — It feels like I should’ve known this already, but wow, do we nominalize! The book on warfare, street signs, and the menu all had me scrambling for verbs and left my poem feeling a little, well, paralyzed. I’m hoping that future challenges will lead me to sources for those juicy action verbs that good writing demands.
- That perhaps I shouldn’t be so reluctant to put questions in my poems — For whatever reason, I’ve edited out nearly every question I ever wrote into a first draft. But one challenge required us to use questions—only questions.This was, unexpectedly, my favorite prompt so far. Drawn from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it’s the poem with which I’m most satisfied and I’ve especially dug the work of my fellow PoMo Scouts under this prompt.
With 25 more writing assignments still ahead, no doubt I’ll learn more. But even if I stopped the challenge today, I could declare it a win.