NaPoWriMo: a Judgment

Thanks to everyone who read, followed, liked or commented on the blog during the April NaPoWriMo project. I enjoyed reading other poets’ contributions day by day. I also enjoyed the impetus to write – even sketching a poem can have that sense of lifting the top of your head off, to borrow Emily Dickinson’s phrase. And the project provoked some useful writing: some of it within the project, some going on alongside it.

I was overwhelmingly relieved to reach the end of the month. Marshalling the time and energy to write a poem a day (even a very draft one) was exacting. I usually abide by the adage “never say never”, but this was my NaPoWriMo finale. That said, it was a reminder of the possibilities of the poem-a-day concept: AR Ammons’ Tape for the Turn of the Year and David Lehman’s The Evening Sun are fair examples .

For those who read the poems (some or all of them), I worked hard to make sure that each contained at least some phrase, image or idea that I thought would reward a reader. We’re all time-poor, with so many worthwhile things to read, and there’s a responsibility in that for any writer.

One welcome extravagance was my daily search for an “entremet” – a suggested poem to complement the one I’d posted. It threw me back into the headlights of some of my early favourite poets, Tom Shapcott and Tomas Tranströmer, as well as Michael Leunig’s breezy “Rustle Crow”.

Perhaps the most productive aspect of the project has been an emerging sense of the poetry I want to write from here – probably poems in quite a different mode, forgiving though it has been for the purposes of a project like this. So, we’ll see what comes next. I hope you enjoyed the poems, such as they are …


  • Ammons, AR, 1994, Tape for the Turn of the Year, WW Norton & Co., New York.
  • Lehman, D, 2002, The Evening Sun: a Journal in Poetry, Scribner Poetry, New York.

NaPoWriMo: Not a Disclaimer

This is, notwithstanding, a disclaimer. The title honours a 2006 article by Western Australian poet John Kinsella, entitled “Line Breaks and Back-Draft: Not a Defence of a Poem”. Despite its title, Kinsella’s article does offer a response to criticisms of his poem, “And Everyone Gathered in Objection Yet Again”. More interestingly, it offers insights into his writing process and objectives:

That’s what interests me: keeping enough of the form for it to be recognised as coming out of some kind of “tradition”, but radicalising enough to question the heritage and the need for variation itself.

April 1 is the beginning of the annual National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) creative writing project. The project began in the United States in 2003, and asks participating poets to write a poem a day throughout the month of April. I’ve enjoyed following friends’ contributions to the project for some years, and posted a poem a day during April 2015. I’ve decided to join the project again this year, because I enjoy (and probably need) the daily discipline and the provocation to write.

So, on to my disclaimer. Like last year, I plan to post poems of 100 or so words in length, based on a phrase, image or concept that I’ve had in mind for a while, or an idea that arises during the day – or, failing that, a writing prompt from @hourlyprompts. Each poem will be a single “prose” paragraph, as that’s the way I usually draft the kind of poem I intend to write and post. All of the poems will be “very draft”. That’s the nature (and some of the attraction) of the project: a sort of “go[ing] on your nerve”, even if it’s not quite what Frank O’Hara had in mind.

The project should be as much about encouraging the reading of poetry, as the writing of poems, so I also intend to include a link to an online poem (at least) that’s in some way complementary, as an entremet.

Stay tuned for the poems…


NaPoWriMo, a roundup

First of all, thanks to everyone who read, followed, liked or commented on the blog during the 30 days of the NaPoWriMo project. As much as I enjoyed the challenge, and the daily impetus to write, it was a relief to reach the end of the month. Throughout the 30 days I enjoyed reading the posts of other poets and following the blogs of friends who were also participating – Gareth, Kathryn and Jennifer.

So what was the result? 30 poems, each a single paragraph, 100 hundred words or so in length. Most were written as short exercises (20 minutes) with (thankfully) little time to rework or reconsider. Some presented an opportunity to work with a phrase, image or concept that I’d had in mind for a while, though most were based on an idea that arose during that day.

The style and format of the poems made them relatively easy to piece together, and allowed a few idiosyncratic and chance details to find their way in. I think that is what I enjoyed most. For example, the poems include the fire-plan of a coastal battery (#3); Edward Hopper (#7); Robbie in Düsseldorf (#14); Kaiser Chiefs (#14); some ordered chaos (#15); a hotel room in Little Collins Street, Melbourne (#16); flarf poetry (#17-#19); the Dukes Highway at night (#20); an erstwhile idea for a verse novel (#24); Fine Young Cannibals (#26); the g10 to Goodwood (#29); the Marquis de Lafayette (#29); and the local penchant for queuing for buses, inspired by a conversation with my friend Josh (#29).

Will I return to the project in 2016? It may depend on whether I think the 30 poems are interesting or useful (to some extent, at least) when I revisit them in a few months’ time. So, we’ll see… If I do, I’d like to attempt a sequence of poems with a single narrative or theme. In retrospect, it’s an extra challenge I would have enjoyed this year.

Finally, it seems sensible to post a conventional version of Poem #15:

“interrogating chaos…”

i’ve been interrogating chaos : its restraint : the uneven coat of it : blacked on : a flicker of crow wing : crow call : crow eye : fillets of a vacillating darkness : i’ve been interrogating a belief : that the line plays out : spools out : comes loose : comes free of its axis : that the vanishing point dissembles : & the detail dissolves : i’ve been interrogating a belief : that the lines intersect : unite : once more : beyond the horizon of my vision : & the result : is perfect order :