Hey, internet! Did you know it’s National Poetry Month? National Poetry Month (or NaPoMo) has taken place every April since 1996, and serves to highlight the vital place poetry holds in our hearts, minds, and intellects!
This NaPoMo, the Quaint staff will be doing their darndest to blog, tweet, and tumblr poem-and-poet-related content to inspire and excite you–as always, with a focus on diverse and under-represented voices.
Today, we got the chance to sit down with New Orleans based poet Jessica Morey-Collins, organizer of an on-line poem-a-day project that aims to inspire and motivate writers to commit to a daily creative practice.
Quaint: What’s the purpose of the poem-a-day project?
Jessica: This particular poem-a-day project has two primary objectives: 1. to provide an impetus for poets to generate new work and 2. to connect poets with each other. Sharing the process of creating new work likely has a different effect on each poet, but I know that for me it helps to alleviate some of the discomfort and difficulty of sitting down to write a poem… it makes me feel like I’m not the only person in that boat. Plus, being accountable to a group is a really powerful motivation.
Quaint: Absolutely! So you’re encouraging poets to share their daily poems with one another? I know this is taking place in a Facebook group–are people sharing privately, or are some creating blogs etc?
Jessica: The Facebook group was primarily used to gather poets from various communities that I’ve been lucky to be a part of. The poem-sharing is all happening via e-mail. It’s a fairly crude, simple system, but seems to work… I compile a list of e-mail addresses (strongly advising that each poet create a dedicated address for the project), then send that list to everyone participating. Each day for the month of April, each poet will send a poem, in the body of an e-mail, to the entire list. It’s a really good way to destroy your inbox. Like, easily my favorite way to destroy my inbox.
Quaint: Destroying inboxes with poetry seems fairly apt for NaPoMo. Is the idea that the poem will then get some feedback from other participants?
Jessica: Since this project is so drafty, encouragement is encouraged, and criticism is only really welcomed if the poet who wrote the draft asks for it explicitly. Because they’re all just little baby poems, my hope is that there will be ample time for feedback and revision later in their incarnations.
Quaint: Has anyone started early? Have you (or have you tried this process before)? What’s been the affect on your work?
Jessica: I know a few poets started drafting/scaffolding things in March. A few people are writing fairly research oriented work, and did a lot of data collecting in the weeks before NaPoMo. This is my fifth(ish) time participating in a poem-a-day month. The first one I participated in was orchestrated by the very talented Larry Eby, who founded PoetrIE and Orange Monkey Publishing. He’s a good person to mention, here, too, because I know that he generated a lot of the work that later became his first and second books (Flight of August, Machinist in the Snow) during these months. It was a total privilege to get to see these poems in their early manifestations. A lot of the time weird pseudo-thematic moments emerge from these sorts of exercises. Already today I got two poems in a row that deal with body hair. I’m not sure if this is some sort of cosmic synchronicity or if folks are just a little extra hair-brained today (HAH sorry!), but it’s always exciting to me. Later in the month sometimes the poems get a bit more conversational–thematically or in how they operate linguistically. It’s all super exciting.
Quaint: Do you ever feel burned out, after writing a poem a day for a solid month? Is it exhausting, or energizing, or both?
Jessica: Definitely both! Usually I start to wane mid-month, but seeing the work everyone else is creating is absolutely electric… I can’t speak for other poets, but for me these months are almost magical. On my own I sometimes struggle to write a poem over the course of an entire week… but when I know I’m not going it alone, and when I have the privilege of seeing early work from other talented poets, it’s a profound incentive and reassurance. Often people are really good about reaching out for support. Usually people will share suggestions for how they motivate themselves, how they root out content, what they look to when they need to find the requisite excitement to make a poem.
Quaint: What’s your personal method of motivation, when you start to flag? What keeps you going/inspired?
Jessica: Primarily, the courage and tenacity of the other poets participating. But when I reach outside of that pool for motivation, it’s usually to read the work of other contemporary poets, or the essays of poets like Mary Ruefle and Dean Young. To be honest, though, I really lucked out in the creative community department. The people around me are always doing such fascinating, curious, imaginative things–in their written work and in their lives. It’s hard to lose motivation for very long with people like that around me.