The ducklings at a neighborhood lagoon provide inspiration for poetry.
By Shelley Widhalm
Writing on a daily basis is like committing to running or some other form of exercise. You start to need it and don’t feel as energetic without that routine. Plus, practice improves skill, and experience builds knowledge.
In September 2017, I committed to the Poem a Day Challenge, an idea I learned about from Placerville, Colorado, poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. The result is I’ve written 319 poems since then, but I also learned some valuable lessons about writing.
The Results of Daily Writing
First, writing comes easier and the skills learned in one format are transferable to other types of writing from fiction to nonfiction.
The crisp simplicity of poetry—leaving out unnecessary words like “the” and choosing nouns over adjectives—can be employed in blogs, articles and other writing. Poems typically aren’t wordy and don’t wander from subject to subject but need to tell a story or display an image in a few words. The same goes with blogs and articles that need to have a clear focus, be concise and have transitions, so that the writing is smooth and appears simple but can be complex.
- Daily writing doesn’t actually have to be daily—days can be skipped and the blanks filled in. For me, poems seem to pile up and wait for the writing—I make sure to have time for them, even if I skip two weeks. I don’t want to get too far behind and have to play catch up, so that it feels like a chore. I make sure to do the poems, because I don’t want to break the commitment.
- Writing can become more present in your life. Now, I am looking for poems, and when I see something that I could turn into a poem, I describe it in my head and remember it for later. I write the poem based on that memory and call up visual impressions to add even more detail. Or, I take a few notes and use them later to prompt the writing.
- Poetry can make you think of how to use language in other places, such as in details and paragraph breaks. A poem changes in meaning or rhythm by altering where the lines end.
The World as Poem
With daily writing, the world becomes a poem—I am constantly describing nature, sunsets and other things as I observe them, not simply in the seeing but in hearing how the words feel in my head.
I essentially look both outward and inward to the world and within myself. The poems cause me to turn my emotional responses and thoughts into language that normally would be kept inside. By writing daily, or nearly so, the inner world becomes more outward in a more automatic way.
Writing daily poetry also is a way to practice poetry. It doesn’t have to be good, but it has to be real to the moment. I let my mind go and start writing, letting the poems come as they want to.
Sometimes, I produce good work, and sometimes, I have sketches—the starts of poems with a good line that can become more if I play with it later. Within the not-so-great poems, there will be those good ones.
Plus, I’m writing more than I would have without the challenge. I’m feeling like I need it, just like I need my one hour of daily exercise of running alternated with weight lifting to get my day going. Poetry does that for me, too.
Here’s an example of one of my daily poems about one of my favorite topics and observation points, the ducks at a neighborhood lagoon.