So, I’m doing a Thirty Day Poetry Challenge. (A hush falls over the room.) I’ve told a few friends. Commentary has been mixed.
One of them assumed I meant reading one lovely poem a day. Poems that someone else had written. “What a nice idea,” she said. Then I told her I was actually writing the poems. I could see an incredulous “Why?” forming behind her eyes. Another friend said: “I didn’t think you wrote poetry?!” And yet another sighed deeply and said: “That sounds just awful.”
Poetry gets a bad rap, don’t you think?
Let me explain. These poems don’t have to be good! Just one a day, created from scratch, for thirty days. That’s the missive for the month of October. Any topic. And any format that works. There are six of us doing this. Sometimes we share what we’ve written. Sometimes not. There are haikus, epic poems, and some rhyming ditties. Anything goes.
For me, this isn’t about learning to write poetry. It’s about practising where I train my eyes and my heart. Choosing what to focus on. You could literally do this with anything. A photograph or a sketch a day. A snatch of a song you make up and sing on your walk to work. One new and stimulating conversation every day.
What I’m finding is that establishing a practice like this really helps pinpoint what touches me or moves me. And that in itself is interesting. These are things that might barely get noticed most of the time. And then there is the act of trying to explore this thing that has caught my attention through choosing the right words.
I feel like this challenge has been about being present to the thousand intensely beautiful and magical moments in every day. It actually seems more like I’m finding a poem a day, because there is so much beauty when I actually pay attention. I’m aware that every moment has the potential to be a poem or a gorgeous piece of music or a beautiful painting or a should-be-framed photo.
Writing a poem a day wakes me up to what is always right there. It’s a way of slowing down and choosing to see differently. And isn’t this what artists of all stripes have always done? Slowed down enough to follow the thread of one small start? Everything artistic that has ever been created started as an idea, a vision, a prayer, a small hopeful breath. The artist is the one who has to explore what’s there. Sit with it. Be with it. Open to it.
It reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when I first learned to “do nothing,” which was really learning to actually BE in a moment. Not missing the moment because I was too busy thinking about what I was supposed to be doing or what was coming next or what had happened a few hours before.
When we stop and pay attention to the shape of a cloud or the song sparrow singing at the top of its lungs or the way the light looks in our child’s hair or the flecks of gold in our lover’s eyes, we are opening to the magic that is always there, but we often miss.
One of my friends, a photographer who is also doing this poetry challenge, said this recently: “I realize that with my camera, I am not ‘capturing’ something. I am kissing it, communing with it, honouring it. It feels the same with poetry.”
Kissing the moment. I like this a lot.
And it makes me curious how others do this. How do you remind yourself to see the world through poetic eyes?
How do you open to life’s magic? How do you commune and connect with the moments that move you?