This September, I’m participating for the third time in the Tupelo Press’ 30/30 project. Each month, volunteer poets write 30 poems in 30 days. These are posted at this link: https://www.tupelopress.org/the-30-30-project-september-2022/ for you reading enjoyment. Tupelo Press is a nonprofit 501(c)3 literary press and we poets strive for a month of amazing writing and ask you to sponsor us by donating to the press. There’s a convenient “donate” button on the opening screen. This project has given me the opportunity to create in tandem with amazing writers, it’s given me a community of poets, it’s given me the freedom and encouragement to write the nascent versions of some of my best poems. Whether you donate or not, go to the link every day and enjoy what’s offered.
Here I go again—for a third time. The 30/30 project for Tupelo Press is a wonderful opportunity to spur your poetry forward and help fund a fabulous press. After your application is accepted, you write a poem a day for a month. There are generally 8-10 participants each month and each day’s poems are available here: https://www.tupelopress.org/the-30-30-project-january-2021/
I’ve participated in the 30/30 project twice before and it has always deepened my work and helped me expand my vision and my writing to new levels. I treasure each opportunity to participate in this program. I’m grateful to Tupelo Press for their innovative thinking in creating this program and accepting me as a participant.
Check out our work at the above link in my post. If you’d like to chip in a few dollars to support the press, pick the name of a poet whose work you like and contribute those dollars to Tupelo in that person’s honor. Both will be delighted. And you have my thanks.
I just completed December’s 30/30 Project for Tupelo Press, along with nine other poets. On previous occasions when I’ve participated in this event, I’ve worked from a theme, thinking that some structure, however fluid, would help me to generate new work. This time, I didn’t do that. I roamed the multiple and varied subjects that crossed my brain. As I look back on my work for this month, I realize that free-range has been a better option, at least this time.
I retired about a year and a half ago to write full-time. When I was writing while holding down a full-time job, structure helped me stay on track. Now that I write every day for longer periods of time, I’m moving away from early structure and finding my generative self growing more creative in a free-ranging way. While some of the pieces I wrote for the project will likely not develop further, I’ll definitely develop and revise some of this work to send out to publishers for consideration.
At some point, structure becomes important, but, for me, that’s further down the line, after a longer period of exploration. That said, this year, I submitted a sonnet, certainly “structured,” to the Kelsay Books Metrical Poetry Contest and won second place, but I don’t think that would have happened if I’d not had a longer generative period before fitting the work into a sonnet form.
This has led me to wonder about the roles of free-form thinking and imposed structure. How do I work with each poem to find the right balance between the two?
Many years ago, when I taught high school, working particularly with students who faced multiple challenges at home and in life, I found that the more rules there were to a poem, the more amazing were the students’ results. I taught forms like the cinquain. See https://mickhispoetry.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/modern-traditional-cinquains/ for the rules and some examples. See https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/list-of-50-poetic-forms-for-poets for a list of many poetic forms, some of which are very complex. If I didn’t provide structure, the students were lost and had trouble writing anything at all.
So where’s the sweet spot? The place where you’ve free-ranged enough and it’s time to explore a structure, whether it’s a formal structure or a form that emerges organically from the work itself. I may look for that sweet spot for the rest of my writing days, but this month has led me to a closer understanding of both approaches and the importance of finding the right moment to move from one to the other and back again.
Summer is such a great time for renewal, re-creation, and expanding horizons. As a writer, I can tell it’s time for summer because emails and snail mails about summer conferences flow in, enticing me with their subjects and tantalizing me with the wonderful presenters/workshop leaders. Of course, there are expenses—registration, lodging, flights, meals, incidentals—and there are times when I get greedy, take on too many, and find myself exhausted by the end of the summer.
But I love them. I write this on the first day of the AWP conference, which I am not attending for a variety of reasons, and some of you may read this while you are in Tampa, but I’m talking about the lazy summer conference—the kind that inspires you to write with space and time to write during the event, the kind that sends you home with a sense of euphoria.
You don’t get that with every conference you attend, but, if you’re lucky, you do—and it’s the best gift ever. You come home and, if you’re even luckier, that “high” stays with you for at least a week.
So here’s to summer conferences. Check the web, lists in Writers Digest, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Chronicle, wherever you can get a good list. Find the ones you think you want and check them out thoroughly before you spend your hard-earned money. Then go.
I may have been on hiatus for six weeks, but, happily, it’s been for a good cause—writing. I spent the first part of the year preparing extensively for the visit of Jeffrey Levine, founder of Tupelo Press, poet extraordinaire, and mentor to many of us. Jeffrey offers experiences (workshop, conference, other words don’t justice to the process he offers) and I was in a position to immerse myself in three two-day experiences while he was here. Jeffrey has now offered these events for four years and each time I attend, I come away rejuvenated, readier than ever to write, and more able to get at what I truly want/need to say.
Last August (see previous posts), I participated in Tupelo Press’ 30/30 project, which helped me to generate new work at a tremendous pace (30 poems in 30 days). I’ll throw out some of what I created, no doubt, but I have much raw material to work with and have been doing so for the last six months. I also made the decision to spend at least one day a week generating new work rather than creating something and revising it before I moved on to the next thing. The brain needs a mix of generation and revision, I learned—an invaluable lesson for my creative life.
Of course, after he left, I had to catch up on the rest of my life, but I seem to be coming up for air now and am working to get into a new writing routine that balances generation and revision more equitably. I also find I enjoy writing even more in my new routine and that feeds into better work. I’m enjoying the upswing and will participate in Tupelo’s May conference to keep me going.
Image credit: http://www.commongoodbooks.com/event/poems-progress, accessed 9 Feb 2016.