I wrote a bit about the process halfway through, but I’ve finally finished NaPoWriMo, where you write a poem every single day in April. I had foolishly thought the process would be relatively straightforward, but I was drastically wrong about that. Writing so many lines over so many days was a real challenge. It was difficult to keep motivated and continue writing.
Halfway through the process, I forgot exactly what poetry is. Nothing seemed to make sense:
Started #napowrimo with a vague idea of what a poem was, even if i couldn’t write it. Now I have no idea
— David Lewis (@davidralphlewis) April 13, 2017
I lost confidence in my writing. Poetry felt like a vague, incomprehensible mess. Unlike short stories, which rely on a clear structure, I struggled to find clear rules for poetry. I didn’t know the rules of the game and therefore I did not know how to change them. I lost faith in what I was writing. I still wrote every day, but with limited faith in what I was doing. Hence this poem:
This poem for you was meant to be
a gilded palace, ornate and impossible,
beautiful in its endless splendour.
This poem for you was meant to be
filled with pleasure gardens, a maze
of rooms and libraries stocked
to interrogate the human spirit.
This poem for you was going to be
carved at the top of a mountain
Over thousands of years, taking
generations to haul boulders
up the steepest slope.
This poem for you was actually
a long abandoned hut
in the middle of a forgotten
forest, blackened walls crawling
with vines beginning their
slow sombre embrace.
I’ve long since praised the idea of a daily routine and it was this that eventually pulled me through. I stopped worrying about the quality of what I was producing and eventually just got on with the business with writing it. The daily routine helped because it didn’t give me time to give into the fear that my writing was trite. Instead, I just had to push forward and write the damn things. Are they any good? I don’t know. What I do know is that I now have thirty poems to edit and mess around with. Fear of the blank page is what stops many people writing, but once the poems have been written they can be shaped and edited. Now, I have something to work with. Here’s another written during the process:
These four walls
but not by the sun
Decorated with electric
blue bolts, hundreds paper
every smooth surface.
In here, I have made
myself at home.
Arrange furniture so
I recline in comfort.
Seeing dust settle like
rain, I snap open
curtains to let the
unlikely light in.
I’ll never leave
but I never think of it
as a prison. It is
All I have ever known.
All I ever will.
The whole process has shown me I still have a lot to learn. With any creative art, just scratching the surface reveals a whole world you were previously unaware of. This process has shown me there are thousands of modern poets I have little to no idea about. There are endless forms and metaphors that I can play around with. There’s a huge community I knew nothing about. On the days I struggled to find inspiration, there was endless prompts and help online. From this point, I want to read even wider to expand my knowledge of this art form. NaPoWriMo may not have given me anything I’m majorly proud with, but it’s certainly given me a start along the road.
Here’s one last poem written during the process:
From above, lives are blinking
pixels on a faulty monitor
In black and white, flat-roofed
buildings are merely blank spaces
waiting to be filled with cracks.
Below, a scatter of static
as I fly overhead, unseen
There are no rules anymore.
We can decide at any time
to reset the screen
wipe it clean and
I fly onwards, invisible
in the choking cloud.