On the 30th of June I wrote the 365th poem of my year of poetry, posted it here on my blog, breathed a humungous sigh of relief and promptly collapsed in exhaustion. Now, after a well-earned rest, I have been reflecting on my experiences over the past year and I wanted to share some of these with you.
First of all, it took me a little while to truly comprehend that I was finished and even longer to actually pat myself on the back. For me, I think the mixed emotions of completing a large creative project like this are akin to reading a good book: the feel of satisfaction as you linger on that last page, the sadness as you close the cover and put it down, the feeling of still being immersed in that world, but now less tangible, still lingering in your thoughts and dreams even as you search for the next good book, knowing it will not be the same, but hoping for something just as satisfyingly different and dazzling.
Nonetheless, since the final day (well, after a few days off to be completely honest) I have endeavoured to maintain the practice of writing a little bit each day. Many writers talk about the need to write every day, and from my personal experience I couldn’t agree more. Writing every day makes writing easier, no matter how hard it might be to get those first few words out, or how mediocre some of the more forced writing may be, inspiration visits more often, the writing itself improves, and the most boring mundane experience or object may transform into a beautiful poem or piece of prose. In fact, I found sometimes the only hard thing was tearing myself away from this world of words and imagination and back into the everyday.
That said, writing a poem a day was a challenge, and as elated as I am to have managed it, there were definitely times when I felt overwhelmed and thought about giving up. Of course I didn’t, partly because of that ever-present fear of failure, partly because I committed to the challenge with a friend who was doing a similar project with photography, and even though we weren’t working together there was a sense of not being entirely alone in this commitment, and partly due to sheer stubborn determination. But in the end I think what really got me through was the realisation that as it was my challenge, it was also up to me to set the rules.
This came about as the months went on, and particularly as I saw myself fall behind my desired outcomes; going from my first month of finished sonnets and polished form poems to drafts that went nowhere and formulaic poems with bad rhymes. I soon realised that if I wanted to complete this challenge to my satisfaction, retain my sanity, and do other necessary work, I was going to have to compromise on exactly how I defined a poem, and sometimes even how I defined a day. So, in the end, I have poems ranging from sets of haiku, some jumbled masses of words that I will one day turn into better poems, to a series of epics in iambic pentameter, a score or so of sonnets and various other forms of verse, and even one sestina.
There are many more things I would like to write about this past year of poetry, but I don’t want to go on too much so instead I have composed a short list of some of the things I learnt over the past year:
- Sometimes you have to make your own rules, regardless of what anyone else says, ie. what constitutes a poem, what constitutes a final draft, what constitutes a day even.
- If it comes to a choice between being a little late or sacrificing the quality of your writing, never sacrifice your writing, never, ever.
- The many urgent things that demand your attention when you have a looming deadline lose all sense of urgency as soon as time once more becomes available.
- Finally, a poem is never finished, every rewrite, every reread, every new person who reads it, all bring with them new layers and depth of meaning and interpretation.
Now I have finished, my friends keep asking me what I will write next. The answer, as yet, eludes me. I have too many words in my head and not enough ink or paper existing with which to write them. For now, my task is to continue the practise of writing every day, regardless of what I write, and see where my words will take me.
A farewell, for now
To this meditation,
this writing of a poem a day,
you have been my project for a year,
a year so hard in many ways,
strewn with difficulties in mind, body and soul,
but also fond times, friendships both new and long,
but most of all a year of learning,
of soul searching, meditation and inspiration,
and celebrating my one true love—
my words, my muse, my poetry—
but my time is up, and so for now
I say farewell,
but only for a day or two,
before my heart will bear me back
to continue once more this journey in verse.