Does a poem a day keep the engine turning over?

Spread the love

Morning sun falls on
different walls in summer
to change winter minds

Sometime in the middle of May, I and some of my friends at Pens Around the World had a little exchange of haiku. It was in response to a writing prompt from Debbie Hubbard. That was the push I needed, and since then I’ve been trying to write a very short verse every morning. That, at the head of this post, is very first one, dated 18th May.

A poem a day: Blubell woods in May

I’ve managed to write every day since, except for the morning when I went to get my wisdom tooth pulled. I started out writing short form verse. Not always a haiku. I was writing couplets, quatraines and tanka as well. Rhyming and non-rhyming. My objective was to keep them down to a max of five lines so they would fit in the margin of my journal (turned sideways).

Lightening in sheets
last night, far off. I'm counting —
miles or syllables —
five, seven, five. The long growl
grows, fades — then the rain.

I followed a similar regime a few years ago for about a month. I thought of it as “Weather Report”. This project has the same name in my mind. Many of the verses do take the weather out my window as a subject, but I don’t feel bound by it. Sometimes the verses come from things done or observed the day before. (Like this next, which came the morning after Mrs SC and I took photos along Drömmarnas kaj.)

All along the Dreaming Quay
     rusting hulks, one after one,
          and deck-chaired on the rusting decks
               the dreamers, dreaming in the sun.

And sometimes they look back a really long way, or relate to political events in the news. But essentially it is a morning pages exercise to start the day’s creative process. Though some days, it’s true, they are the only creative writing I manage.

A poem a day: Red reflected ripples

Perhaps I won’t do anything more with these verses (beyond sharing some with you here), but already it’s a pleasure to turn back the pages of my journal to see how many I’ve written. And, since I’ve kept it going now for nearly three months, there’s a growing sense of challenging myself. How long can I keep it up?

Our kitchen birch has put on leaves,
sudden summer leaves.
In the south-east wind she twists and turns,
shakes and shimmies,
a girl again in her first ball gown.

Previously I’ve said that writing poetry is the most fun I know how to have with words. The only problem is, you can spend hours on some delicate thing only to have it fall apart in your hands. Or finish it, and look back at all the hours you spent and what have you got to show? A hundred words – if you’re lucky.

I’ve restricted myself by giving each of these morning verses no more than about half an hour. (OK, sometimes an hour. But no more.) I write down what I can and if it’s no good, it’s no good. I move on. The fascinating thing is, doing this daily, the verses have become (a bit) better and are more quickly written. And longer.

In the park, under the trees, soft but clear
I hear a crack! And glancing to the right
see her biting through the hard chocolate skin
of her ice cream. An elderly woman
in a summer kaftan, on a side bench.
Thin and wirey, bare brown arms and shins,
a straw hat on her grey hair, ballet flats
on her feet, swinging like a little child's.
She's a picture of curled contentment.

Because of the growing length, this month I’ve moved them from the margins to dedicated pages in the journal. I’m still not sure if this is a good thing. Meanwhile, lately, the repetitive quality of the weather has found me repeating myself in verse. I find myself thinking: Not another pearl-grey morning! But I know this is just an excuse for my own inability to vary what I write. So I write about that.

Here's the ballpoint in my hand,
here's the ink trail on the page —
here my thoughts run into sand,
nothing comes, not reason, rage.

Where's the story? Where's the bright 
image? Jumbled thoughts circle
there's no perch and ideas fight,
lines disjointed, broken rhymes —

But here's the pen and here's the page.
I'll catch confusion in this cage.

So, how do you start your creative day?

Read more

Spread the love

2 thoughts on “Does a poem a day keep the engine turning over?”

  1. John, your verses are truly delightful. I’m happy my writing prompt has born such delicious fruit for you. I should practice what I preach.


Leave a comment