… because April is time for NaPoWriMo, which was so much fun last year. Similar to NaNoWrIMo but geared toward those of us who wri pos rather than nos (when it comes to fiction, I was always pretty good at setting the scene and developing characters—I just couldn’t figure out what should happen to them), NaPoWriMo is a daily writing challenge created by poet Maureen Thorson in 2003.
Each day in April, a prompt is posted, ranging from a general topic to a very specific—and sometimes very unusual—poetic form. You can write based on that prompt or just write any kind of poem. If you don’t have a blog or a website and don’t wish to create one—or if you don’t want to post unpublished poems on it—that’s all there is to it.
But to my mind, the real fun comes if you do have a blog and are willing to post poems there (more on that in a minute). I did NaPoWriMo for the first time last year and was just astounded by how much new traffic I got that way, and by how many outstanding poets I encountered for the first time by bouncing around the page of links to participants’ sites. Some of those connections remain to this day, and I treasure them.
The whole experience was so reinvigorating and enlightening—and fun. I highly recommend it.
A word to those who are new to poetry or who are writing again after a long lapse: Go for it. If you’re thinking you could never post a poem and thus make it available for public comment, please know that there are (in my experience) very few trolls among the writers and readers of poetry blogs.
Members of this loose community all seem to understand how difficult it can be to express so much in such a compressed space. Whatever your style and whatever your level of experience, you are sure to find appreciative readers this way, and any suggestions you might receive will be gentle and constructive. April would be a great time to give it a try!
And, for the more experienced, a word about the relative wisdom/foolhardiness of posting poems that you might want to submit for publication someday: I know the risks, but I go for it anyway—weekly year-round, and daily in April.
For one thing, there no longer seems to be ironclad consensus that a blog-posted poem counts as a previously published poem (which, as you probably know, is the kiss of death as far as many publications are concerned). Things seem to be easing up a bit, and if you ask around—as I have—you might find—as I have—that editors at some very reputable publications will consider poems that have been posted on your own blog (as opposed to in online literary publications).
Also, the poems I write for challenges of this type don’t tend to be the ones I submit for publication. Sometimes the exercise is enough, and it doesn’t feel as if I need to do anything further with them. Other times, they might be perfect additions to a chapbook manuscript (and for chapbooks, it’s totally fine if individual poems have been published elsewhere) or a springboard for something else.
And it’s just fun (which I think I’ve mentioned). It’s so much fun that I almost don’t mind it if I am “wasting” an entire month of poems. That is, even if they all bear the dreaded PP badge and are banished to the land of wind and ghosts, it would still be worth it. And again, no poem is ever wasted—because one that I post in April might spark an idea for something else entirely a few months down the road.
Also in April (and again in November) is a poem-a-day challenge through Writer’s Digest. I’ve done that one before and have enjoyed it but will not be doing it this time. I feel pretty busy lately and would like to focus on just one daily writing challenge; two felt like a bit much last April.
I chose NaPoWriMo for this year because the action is mainly at the individual participants’ blogs, whereas the Writer’s Digest one lives mainly in the comments section of a particular blog at the WD site. There are workarounds—you can certainly post on your own blog as well as in the comments—but the daily ping ping ping of new visitors and the fun of visiting other poets’ blogs make NaPoWriMo impossible for me to resist.
To each his or her own, though, and that comments section at Poetic Asides—the WD blog that hosts the other challenge I’m talking about—does become its own sort of community, which has its own appeal. It just depends what you’re after, and you should definitely check out both.
Will I see you in April? Whether you take up a daily challenge or not, I hope it’s a big—and fun—month for you and your writing!