Writerly Rant #28
NaPoWriMo: Say Whaaat?
I swear I didn’t know NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) was a thing until now, and if you’ve read my thoughts on NaNoWriMo (see sidebar for link) then you know how I feel about this. But somehow, I hate NaPoWriMo even more.
You may chalk my disdain up to older sibling syndrome (there’s a new baby in town trying to be as cute as I’ve been all this time) and sure, maybe that’s part of it. I generally despise anything having to do with mass participation that does not appear to have sprung from intrinsic motivation and original thought. I’m super judgmental, we all know that.
I’m not trying to discourage anybody’s spreading their poetry wings and freeing their spirit to frolic in the beauty of the written word *smirk*. But I will be stifling a lot of laughter and a hefty amount of grumbling during the month of April.
Because my God, what the world needs is more sh**ty poetry.
And we especially need more sh**ty poetry that conforms to predetermined themes and forms- daily prompts which relieve us from the bothersome task of coming up with something on our own.
“Write a persona poem from the viewpoint of the first thing you see when you look away from the computer screen.”
“Grab a blind person and write a sestina using the first six words they point to in the newspaper.”
I’m sorry, are we poets or are we vending machines? What the hell kind of poet prides themselves on “Hey, pick any random form and subject and I’ll make a poem out of it in 20 minutes or less or your money back.”
Based on my experience, no poem written in response to a prompt has ever had half the chops of something written for the sole purpose of writing in itself. If I used writing prompts for my 365 project I’d hang myself for being a big fat cheater and that’s that.
One of my favorite poems, by Charles Bukowski, which embodies my philosophy of poetry nicely, is quite simple:
If you got nothin’ to say, you got no spirit left, go find a writing prompt and do what it tells you. When you have something to say, forms and rules and guidelines and prompts be damned.
And here we are once again at the same conclusion- if you’re a baby poet and you need some anonymous program to help you think of something to write, by all means, knock yourself out. You’ll never be any good, and I guess that’s fine because you’re obviously just in it for funsies.
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Below is an excellent response of Charlotte’s to a new follower of her blog that “just didn’t get it.” I felt I had to include it because of how people make assumptions and will often not research who their following…
Charlotte: No offense, but I think YOU’RE missing the point. Who am I to say those things? Well… I didn’t. I didn’t say it was impossible for a writing prompt to induce quality work, but I did say that “based on my experience, no poem written in response to a prompt has ever had half the chops of something written for the sole purpose of writing in itself.”
Much of the problem with the work of those who follow prompts is that the piece tends to be finished as soon as it meets the requirements of the prompt. And you can smell that kind of poetry from a mile away. But work that originates from the writer’s soul is only complete when that writer feels it is whole and complete, not according to anyone’s standards but their own, and as a reader you can feel it.
As a side note, I gather that you have not been following this blog for very long because to note with any surprise that my work is snarky and conceited is a little late to the party!
I bare my heart and soul to the world every day through my poetry; you’ll have to forgive me if I speak my opinion in a way that might hurt some poor poet’s feelings on the internet. But actually, if somebody reading this post is actually set back in their quest for self-actualization, creativity, or writing, I’d say they’ve got a loooong way to go and I’m happy to help them realize that.
And regarding my post not being very nice… let’s just say that the word “nice” is probably my least favorite in the English language. It means almost nothing and my greatest hope is that when I die no one will ever find cause from anything I did in life to say that I was “nice.”
Poets are not meant to be nice, they are meant to be honest. Was Charles Bukowski nice? Maya Angelou? Allen Ginsberg? Hardly. If a poet is going to be nice I think they’d better get used to being mediocre and unsuccessful…
At any rate, thanks for reading and for your comment. We all need a little healthy debate now and then 🙂
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A walking stereotype, Charlotte Cuevas is exactly what you’d expect from a children’s librarian and freelance writer- most days you’ll find her bustling about here and there, balancing coffee and a stack of books, fingers stained with ink and pearls jangling. She’s quite serious about poetry, literature, personal growth, and figuring out how to rebuff society’s standards when she’s most content fitting right into them.
The 365 Poetry Project is Charlotte’s attempt to push herself to a greater mastery of the craft, as opposed to her wonderful penchant for writing “whenever I feel like it.” She in no way claims that it was her idea; only that it feels like something she need to do.
Follow Charlotte at http://charlottecuevas.wordpress.com