Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Poems by request

Well, that was an unexpected delight. Whee!

In early February, I wrote a poem on a whim, for Penni Russon and Kirsty Murray (because I idolize them a bit), and instead of squireling it away for a dusty publication, I posted it on my blog. I got some nice responses, and I tweeted something along the lines of "I should do this every day. What should I write about tomorrow, Twitter?" @facelikethunder replied that I should write something in dactylic hexameter, so the next morning I did, and posted it on my blog. More nice responses. That evening, I asked Twitter what I should write about the next day - and people responded with suggestions.

And so it went on - to 100 poems. It's not quite 100 days, all up, because there were a few days where I wrote two poems (crazy kid). It's tripled the traffic to my blog (which usually lies pretty fallow as I am slack). The most popular poem, hits-wise? This one.

For a very non-prolific person (I usually amass a grand total of about five poems a year), writing 100 poems in a couple of months has been liberating and heartening. Turns out if you just sit down and write stuff, then you've written stuff. Who knew?

Writing a poem every day (no weekends off!) for 100 pieces means I've written in practically every possible physical and emotional state I can think of. I've written poetry while I was happy, angry, tired, manic, ashamed, proud, crying, laughing, drunk, hungover, sick, stressed, hungry, spaced-out, distracted, sweaty, freezing, you name it. A couple of times I was prevented from posting my poem on the actual day - technology, parties, emotional disasters can get in the way of these things, but I'm proud that I never actually missed a day. I always wrote the poem, and it got to the blog at least within a day of being due.

I wrote poetry when I thought I couldn't face it, I wrote poetry when I thought I couldn't face anything. Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was write a fucking poem. Sometimes it gave me a reason to live through the night, or get up in the morning. Sometimes it was so much fun.

Writing a poem every day - and in a way I couldn't cheat ahead with, as suggestions for the next day's poem were always taken the night before - has forced me to loosen up the way I write. Writing a poem in the morning, editing it and posting it that evening is a far cry from the strangulated way I usually write a poem over months. I've written poems entirely composed of quotations, I've written poems entirely composed of in-jokes. I've tried forms I never would have tried on my own - anti-poetry, sestinas (OMG sestinas are hard), visual poetry, concrete poetry, villanelles, terza rimas, etc. It's reminded me that I love formal restrictions, and how they can sometimes create better work than writing unfettered by rhyme schemes and meter.

It's overflowed into my non-blog writing, too. I've calculated that in the last three months I've written 20,000 non-blog words in the form of other poetry, short stories and essays. That's pretty much unheard of for me. I hope to keep the momentum going, because when I stop writing, I tend to get paralysed. Thomas Mann said "A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Sounds about right.

I love making things for people. Poems by request let me make something every night, and hand it over like a present. I'm ending the daily poem posting at 100 (because I'm a little weary, and it seemed a nice round number to stop at), but it's not really an end as such. I still intend to post poems, and take special requests. Just not every day!

What now? More of the same, really. Submissions, writing, reviewing deadlines, mothering, partnering, reading - and you know I have a day job, right? For the time being, anyway. I'd quite like to resurrect my reading your favourites thing too, though it takes a lot longer to get to blogging about that each time. I hate leaving things unfinished!

Overall, I want to say thankyou. The response from all of you has been quite overwhelming. Night after night, you kept coming up with suggestions for the next day's verses - I've had suggestions from lifelong friends, old friends I've just met, complete strangers, family, authors I admire, toddlers and children. Thankyou to everyone who's commented, tweeted, and spoken to me about how they've enjoyed this spontaneous project, and special thanks to everyone who's made a suggestion. Namely *drum roll* these 91 peeps (I hope I didn't miss anyone!):

  • AG
  • Aimee
  • Allysha
  • @_boobook_
  • @_camer0n
  • @1000yearsago
  • @1000yearsago
  • @alphabetsoupmag
  • @anitranot
  • @anthonyeaton
  • @anti_kate
  • @awurster
  • Charlotte
  • Claudia
  • @cochineal
  • Daniel
  • @dogpossum
  • @eglantinescake
  • Erin
  • @ernmalleyscat
  • @facelikethunder
  • Fred
  • G____
  • Gabe
  • @greenspace01
  • @GretasTARDIS
  • H.
  • Hamish
  • @hleighthree
  • @iFigaro2u
  • Janet Punch
  • @jellyjellyfish
  • @johnnypurple
  • @juliansanelli
  • Justine
  • Keira
  • @kenrob2037
  • @kirsty_I
  • @kirstymurray
  • @kissability
  • @kumuda
  • @lucyrogue
  • Luka
  • @margolanagan
  • @marklawrence
  • @matchtrick
  • @mindlessmunkey
  • @MJPhotographer
  • @mlledelicieuse
  • @msmaddiep
  • @msmisrule
  • Mum
  • @notcharming
  • Ollie
  • P.
  • @pcblues
  • Peter Punch
  • @pinknantucket
  • @PipHaz
  • @Quadelle
  • @realnixwilliams
  • Riley
  • @robcorr
  • @ryanpaine
  • @sarahhazelton
  • @SeanMElliott
  • @simmonehowell
  • @skippy_2
  • @slimejam
  • @snazzydee
  • @sorrel_smith
  • @sorrel_smith’s 3yo (and her 1.5yo sister)
  • @spikelynch
  • @spikelynch's three girls
  • @sulphura
  • @sushipyjamas
  • @sushipyjamas
  • @suz_la
  • @suznannah
  • Tammy
  • TG
  • The Boy
  • @TheEndeavour
  • @tiggyjohnson
  • @timsterne
  • Toby
  • @twitofalili
  • @tysonarmstrong
  • Una
  • @VayaPashos
  • @xutraa

Thanks guys. What a trip. I'm so grateful.

xxx ARP


ernmalleyscat said...


essie said...

how divinely inspiring. thank you for doing this, and for writing. it's wonderful.

Anna said...

Aw, thanks guys :)

nixwilliams said...

it's been a great ride! i've really enjoyed suggesting things and reading poems!

Alana said...

heh you thanked me twice! :) sean kept suggesting ideas to me for it even when it was over