Second April, so the fools have departed, thank God, with their fake headlines and their practical jokes that were never quite practical enough… One friend joked that he had had an amazing stroke of good luck and then had to spend the evening frantically letting everyone know it was only a jape, and feeling humbled by how so many people thought this wondrous news had indeed befallen him. Another joked that something happened to his bike, and then something did. They were both poets, too, you’d think they’d know better than to tempt fate like that. It seemed an inauspicious start to to a whole month of poetry…
Then the dust that was so mysteriously covering all the cars on Monday morning – as well as the leaves of my little bay tree, though the papers never mentioned plants – turned out to be the sands of the Sahara, blown in, and is still with us. Very romantic. Dreams of camels, Bedouins in billowing robes, the desert scene in Half Magic (‘I for one’, said Martha, shaking sand from her roller skate, ‘will never play in a sandbox again’), all swirling down to rest on my little balcony. And today we’re informed that we’re on Level 9 pollution, from that and other things. So it’s not Chaucer, exactly; more like ‘that April with his shours of soote’.
The air is feeling rather heavy out there; it’s the sand, or some lead they didn’t tell us about. Maybe that’s a good reason to stay inside. You can write some poems. I was telling some of my students the other week about NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing month. It’s an American thing, where this is indeed National Poetry Month, and it comes from the annual November jape, National Novel Writing month. I know lots of people know all about this already and have done it, worn the T shirt, and collapsed. But my class didn’t know about it. Basically, you write a poem a day for the month of April.
Never fear, there’s a website to help you! The NaPoWriMo website. If you sign up officially, the idea is to have a blog where you post your poems every day. Every day the main website features the blog of a participant, and a small press or magazine, and a prompt for a poem.
Can’t get fairer than that, can you? And I have a friend who did it one year and wrote the tiniest little poems you can imagine, and later strung them into one long one in sections. Yesterday’s prompt was to go and click the button – like what used to e spinning the wheel – at the rather bizarrely wonderful Bibliomancy Oracle. (I’d think it was even more wonderful if it hadn’t answered my question – me there, trembling as at the mouth of the cave, with my life problem hovering on the rim of my brain, ready to spill over into everything – with a little bit of minimalist gobbledegook about a dog.) So go on, you can do it. Click the clicker and write a little poem.
And if that isn’t enough prompts, the wonderful poetry being that is Jo Bell is running a project for the whole of this year – it started on New Year’s – called 52. Its strapline is, ‘Write a poem a week. Start Now. Keep going.’The website essentially features a weekly prompt, and there’s a Facebook page where people are posting up their poems; I know a couple of people taking part and it’s great, and a massive success. Once a month a guest poet does the prompt, and some of the prompts are more like brilliant exercises; it’s a chance to see lots of different approaches. To approach from many different angles.
The prompts come out very Thursday morning, so tomorrow is the next one. It hardly needs to be said – or does it – that these activities are open to absolutely anyone, anyone at all, who has a feel to write some poems with some help, and maybe share them. You can be a well-published writer, a famous (ahem) poet, or a complete newcomer who feels like putting some structure on your cravings.
It’s April, it’s the poets’ month. We may as well try and enjoy it.
N.b., In the interests of full disclosure. I once tried to do NaPoWriMo. I used my time walking across Green Park to the tube to think about poems, and I wrote a few, but none of them ever got anywhere. I think I lasted till Day Six.
PS: I was going to use this year’s National Poetry Month poster, but it gave me hives. sorry.