Yesterday, I participated in my first poetry marathon. Well, technically the half marathon. Twelve new poems in twelve hours. This morning, I’m very tired.
The whole exercise was deceptively difficult—not that I thought it would be so easy, but when I sit down with my big sketchbook to write, I often will write three or four poems at a time, taking maybe twenty minutes or so. That’s what I was thinking would happen when I signed up.
The way it actually worked was that I would spend time writing my poem for the hour, then edit until I was satisfied with the result, at which time I would then post the poem to the website (and to my own blog).
The first couple of poems came very easily; it did not take me very long to get what I wanted. I posted my first poem at 6:17, and my second at 7:08.
With hour three, I hit a wall. The words did not come as quickly, and I spent more time editing than I did writing. I posted my third poem at 8:32.
I started on my fourth poem a few minutes before the hour. It was shaping up to be another slog until I checked the prompt; after that, it went smoothly. I posted this poem at 9:17.
The next three hours dragged; as soon as I finished one poem, I’d be thinking about the next. Though I didn’t have much trouble coming up with something to write about, I still spent most of hour five on my poem, posting the finished piece at 10:47. Hour six was just horrible: I started and erased a couple of different poems before writing one I liked—finishing just under the wire, at 11:58. Hour seven wasn’t much better: it took seeing a couple of pennies on my desk for me to come up with a poem worth posting; I finished that one at 12:52.
The prompt posted for hour eight—write a pantoum—saved me a lot of trouble. Since I had spent the month of March doing just that, I was able to get right into it; by 1:17, I had my finished piece.
Hour nine was another sticky one. It was only after I made myself write a haiku in order to simplify things that I wrote something I was happy with. I posted my ninth poem at 2:32.
For hour ten, I decided to save myself a lot of trouble by turning to a book on film posters that I’d bought at the library for a buck. I opened it up to a couple of pages, and started underlining phrases here and there; after adding a couple of new lines, I posted my poem at 3:17.
That’s when I finally felt like I had enough time to pause for a shower. Before that, I had kept putting it off, reasoning that I wanted to be ready when the next hour came around.
Refreshed, I started hour eleven by checking the prompt, which was to write a poem from the point of view of someone without a home. I dusted off a phrase I had come up with many years ago (‘neither neither nor nor’), and finally did it justice. I posted my eleventh poem at 4:16.
For the final hour of the half marathon, I again chose to follow the prompt, which was to use at least five out of a list of eight words. I wrote the poem in a few minutes, then spent about twenty minutes to re-arrange lines and polish. I uploaded this last piece at 5:31.
Then I went to a poetry reading. The open-mic portion went two rounds, so I was able to read five of the twelve poems I had written over the course of the day.
Overall, I’m happy with the results of the day’s work. I did make small edits to a couple of the poems after the fact, but otherwise I ended up with twelve complete poems that I like. More importantly, I was able to accomplish this in a single day.
There is a very good chance I will do this again next year; it’s a creative exercise well worth doing. I’ll stick with the half marathon, though—I still value my sleep…
(14 August 2016)