Why not write poems in November?
Several decades ago, Jerry Roscoe and I were ferrying Robert Creeley around for the day in Jerry's salesman car, heading east to meet Jim Lowell, of Asphodel fame. He was still selling wonderful broadsides and fine letterpress books but now instead of the bookstore downtown, he was working out of a room next to his wife's beauty shop way out in the country. As we drove (ahem) Jerry asked Creeley about the novel Creeley had written-- was it the only one he had written, Jerry wanted to know. There was a long very long silence before Creeley responded:
"Yes. I learned novels are long and life...is short."
Creeley had a relatively long life that yielded some of the greatest poems of the 20th century, and while he didn't seem to have any regrets about having written the novel... well, it seemed he wouldn't have had any regrets if he hadn't written one either.
If you are a writer who would like the fun or rigor or challenge or pain of writing every day in the month of November, when all your friends are yammering about their novels, but you just aren't the novel type, consider writing a poem a day. I know, I know. We were supposed to do that in April during National Poetry Month. But face it, sometimes there is just too much poetry going ON to write anything during April. If you go to just half of the readings your friends give during that month, you don't have time to shower, let alone write.
True confession: I created the 30 prompts for the "Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry" online project of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) last April. In my profession as a creative writing professor for two decades, I had always done the prompts myself ahead of time that I then gave to my students. But I was too busy January through April with writing events, editing, and e-mailing to try them. By the middle of April, with no writing done, I felt guilty as heck and promised myself I'd do the regime in May. And I did! And it was wonderful! I wrote 30 poems, over half of them worth sending out, two of them published by now.
When I finished, I wrote some of the Ohio poets whom I knew had written during April-- a few of whom had responded to TWO prompts a day-- to ask them what they got out of it. Their responses were so generously descriptive and enthusiastic that I thought I'd use them to excite writers for next April. But then, the problem with April is everything poetry that's going on. Whereas November is...novels. For some of us, November may be a little slower than April. The Indians should have sewn up the World Series by November 3rd. There are very few graduations coming up. The holidays are a whole month away. It's too cold for grass and not quite time to shovel.
If you have the time for a novel in November, you go. But if you are a writer who doesn't have the time this month, or a poet, who doesn't have the tendency, consider writing a poem a day. Weekly, I am going to be linking to a week's worth of April prompts and posting an interview with a poet who wrote to those prompts and has some things to say about it.
Cat Russell (who does plan to write a novel this month)
Chuck Salmons (President of the Ohio Poetry Association)
Julie Ursem Marchand (Lorain County Librarian)
Kerry Trautman (author of To Have Hoped)
Laurie Kincer (Co-ordinator of the CCPL Skirball Writers Center)