I recently attempted the National Poetry Writing Month challenge. NaPoWriMo is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. The http://napowrimo.net/ website is owned and operated by Maureen Thorson, a poet living in Washington DC, but the challenge is now undertaken by poets from across the globe.
I decided to try to write a poem each day of April. I’m not really sure why. Forcing myself to write, whatever the circumstances, seemed to be a good way to hone my craft. Poetry is like anything — the more you do it the better you get, and perhaps sheer volume would be the way to finding the literary gems I was capable of. Perhaps joining thousands of other poets in this challenge was a way to legitimise my poetic practice.
I never thought of myself as having a poetic practice. I have a carefully crafted manifesto about why I make theatre, but it’s never occurred to me to articulate why I write poetry, until I found myself staring at a blank page at the end of another April day, wondering why I found it so hard to just write a poem.
NaPoWriMo made me realise that I’m a needs-based poet. I’m not about runs on the board, or endless edits unto perfection. I’m not about the delicacy of the craft or recognition as a bard. I’m not ashamed to say I don’t read poetry. I didn’t care to use the daily NaPoWriMo prompts and I never sought out another participant’s work to peruse.
I started thinking about how I always used to carry a notebook and pen wherever I went, and how I used to write poetry about whatever was happening around me. An imaginary journey inspired by an overheard conversation, a portrait of a stranger, the recording of the minutiae of human life. I would write at a bus stop, in class, while looking out my kitchen window. But more recently I don’t have the luxury of as-you-go poetry. I’m a single mother of two preschool-aged children, I run a theatre company and I work, so poetry has been relegated to a half-hour smash-it-out at the end of each day. My notebook lives beside my bed instead of in my handbag.
But both the before- and after-children versions of the poet me always wrote about the world from a selfish angle. My personal perspective shades even the recording of the people around me at the bus stop. What I write about isn’t what was happening around me, but in fact what is happening within me. So while I technically could write a poem about nothing much happening, it felt redundant to do so just because NaPoWriMo challenged me to.
My poetry is purely and simply an outlet for my emotions — some people work out at the gym, play video games or go clubbing. I write poetry. In an attempt to process my experiences and my feelings about those experiences, I write.
11 poems in 30 days. That’s okay with me. Because that means there were 19 days where everything was fine, and only 11 days when my emotions were so strong that they needed to grace the page. That’s my poetry doing its job.
Megan Riedl is a Ballarat-based arts management professional, poet, playwright and director.
Her playwriting credits include short plays for Bendigo Theatre Company’s Ten x 10, the touring comedy Travels with My Black Dog, and historical drama Hollow.
As a Director, she has worked with Bendigo Theatre Company, Creswick Theatre Company and Tripwire Theatre Inc, and her poetry was performed atop of the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute as part of the Minerva Speaks project.
After completing her Graduate Certificate in Arts Management at Deakin University, and undertaking a NIDA Directing for the Stage short course, Megan took part in the 2017 Leaders Forum program with Leadership Ballarat & Western Region.