As it’s at the tail end of the period during which saying ‘Happy New Year’ still flies, it’s my last chance to write a little about a poetry challenge I took on earlier this year. Think of it as a wrap-up post and a resolution to write more poetry in 2015 in one.
Back in April — National Poetry Month — I signed on for the 30/30 Poetry Challenge organized by WordxWord. The goal was 30 poems in 30 days, with a different prompt each day and a 24-hour deadline to submit. Full disclosure: I only made it to poem 26 before life took over and I ran out of time. But that’s still 26 new works; some rushed, some thoughtful, some containing flashes of brilliance (dare say I) and some kinda crappy.
Such is the stuff of writing.
Prompts ranged, literally, from ‘Things we Carry’ (April 1) to ‘All she Wrote,’ (April 30). It’s strange to write poetry with the overall goal of quantity versus quality, but as the challenge progressed, I realized this is a great exercise: I was writing on a theme presented by someone else, and stepping outside of my writing comfort zone, which generally lasts longer than a day as I tinker and tweak. I found that ideas would pop into my head, and instead of torturing them into something that I felt reflected my poetic voice and viewpoint, I simply ran with them. The result was a broader selection of styles and topics than I normally tackle, and probably plenty of nuggets that I can coax into something even better later down the line.
One of my favorite poets is the singer/songwriter Mike Doughty, former Soul Coughing front man. he came to mind on April 17, when the prompt was ‘5 am’ and his song Screenwriter’s Blues, largely spoken word over an instrumental strain, started rolling around in my noggin. Instead of trying to get as far away from his words as I could and write something that was totally, uniquely me, I instead merged with his lyrics full force. Call it an homage, call it a mash-up, call it dreck … the point was not to amaze and dazzle. The point was simply to write, and the result is one of my favorite submissions, even if no one else thinks it’s worth a pile of magic beans.
I reiterate … such is the stuff of writing.
It is 5 a.m.
“It is 5 a.m.,” (as a matter-of-fact.) “And you are listening to Los Angeles.”
The words are Doughty’s on the mic.
But could I say it better? No matter:
5 a.m. is bleak and hopeful, confusing and stark
the light is gray and piercing
there’s little noise, but what sounds
To drive seems foreign, to sleep natural,
but sleep evades (if we’re recognizing time).
It’s a gloaming when night fades and morning resists
It is 5 a.m.
and my own words don’t come
but those spoken by others
resonate like the snapping of a trap.
~ Jaclyn C. Stevenson (with an excerpt from Screenwriter’s Blues, written by M. Doughty) 2014