Conventional wisdom holds that the way to begin a productive new year is to set goals, but I’m loathe to do so because I have a rebellious nature. I even rebel against my own goals. How self-defeating is that?
Some of my writing friends have set benchmarks such as accumulating 50 or 100 rejection notices so that they maintain a steady stream of sending out poems for publication. Last year I agreed to shoot for thirty, but I think I only sent work to five or six journals. I did receive two acceptances, though–
“Letter to My Father at the Winter Solstice” at Heron Tree, one of my favorite online journals. They publish one poem a week and then gather all of them together and publish them in one volume. Here is a link to volume 5, which is ongoing: Heron Tree, volume 5.
The other poem I published in 2017 is a contrapuntal poem, a specific form I learned about in a workshop led by talented poet and teacher Amy Pence. I wrote this poem, “Dependent Co-arrising” from a prompt based on the writing of Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space at Switched-on Gutenberg.
Amy had already led a contrapuntal poetry workshop based on ekphrasis, where we described an image in one column and then wrote from the perspective of a single individual in the next column.
In the second workshop we used intertextuality as a springboard. I wrote four or five contrapuntal poems last year, and found inspiration from this technique for revising other poems I had abandoned.
I took two other poetry workshops in 2017, one with the poet and teacher with Jenn Givhan on narrative poetry and the other with Ada Limón at 24Pearlstreet. In both of these workshops, I wrote about the pilgrimage I took to Fisterra this past summer.
I have written many new poems in the last year, but I don’t like sending them out into the world because they all feel like works in progress. Maybe once I complete the project I’ll feel better about trying to publish individual pieces.
I suppose when I look back on what I did and did not accomplish last year, I will say that my intention (not a goal), is to continue writing. I find inspiration from reading poetry, walking in nature, practicing yoga, just from being alive, really.
But motivation to write comes from discipline. It requires daily practice. That’s where the workshops factor in for me. The deadlines to write, read, and comment on other poet’s work helps me stay focused.
For inspiration, take a look at poet Dave Bonta’s erasure poems based on the Diary of Samuel Pepys–this one is titled “Gusto.”