Personal, writing

NPM ’16 – What I learned


The entire quote from which the above is taken:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now… Some more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” – Annie Dillard

I once had the quote by Annie Dillard (above) pinned to my bulletin board. It was encouragement to be less hesitant to use my “good ideas”  (what if I never got another one…) and to share my writing. This last month I have put it into practice perhaps more than ever before. For not only did I write a new poem every day but  also published daily here on this blog.

I think I enjoyed April of 2016 poetically more than any National Poetry month till now. I’m sure that’s because I put more into it in several ways. Here are some things I learned about myself and the writing process.

1. The fact that I was determined to post a poem every day had me working harder and more purposefully than other years when I wrote daily but didn’t go public.

2. I got a lot out of following other poets’ projects. Here are some of the April 2016 poem series that I enjoyed a lot:

Mary Lee Hahn’s series inspired by old photos.

Donna Smith’s series inspired by vanity license plates.

– Irene Latham’s series “Art Speak” inspired by paintings (many that involved food, to go with her latest published project Fresh Delicious).

– Amy L. Vanderwater’s series “Wallow in Wonder” inspired by the daily questions at Wonderopolis.

Margaret Simon’s series inspired by photographic images.

– Doraine Bennett’s series “Feet in a Creek” inspired by specific poems of favorite poets.

Heidi Mordhorst’s series of poetry paired with music.

– And of course, being part of the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem.

These series got me thinking that on another year I’d like to write to a theme.

3. Writing daily has helped me feel more relaxed about the process. It has showed me that if you sit with an idea for a while, something usually surfaces. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it can be about anything. When I give what James Scott Bell calls “the boys in the basement” the assignment to come up with an idea, they usually do. It helps, though, to be patient and respect the process.  Here’s how I described that process some years ago

Some Poems

Some poems appear like lightning
an epiphany moment
of illuminating clarity

Others are a groping hand-over-hand
out of the well of experience
into the light of meaning

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

4. Finally, what kept me going most was the companionship of my writing friend Laurel. She joined me in this challenge by publishing a new poem of her own almost every day on her blog Four Parts Hope. There’s nothing like a poet buddy to keep one on track. Thanks Laurel!

Thanks, as well, to all who came by and read these daily April postings!

I will now resume my usual pedestrian schedule of one or two posts per week.

10 thoughts on “NPM ’16 – What I learned”

  1. I love this quote and what it means to my writing. I’m so afraid that I’ll never write another poem. Will the well run dry? I think that this discipline proved otherwise, that poems will come if you ask for them. I’m reading posts before writing my Slice of Life post for tomorrow. This gives me a seed to plant. Thanks for the Shout Out. Amazing community here.


      1. I’m reading Billy Collins’ book, The Trouble with Poetry, and in it he has a poem about a poetry instruction book, and it’s hilarious. If you don’t know how to end a poem, end with brown hens standing in the rain. I don’t know why, but the idea of ending all my poetry that way makes me want to sprinkle fairy dust in sunbeams and turn cartwheels in the rain.


      2. Ha!

        Brenda, I think those brown hens standing in the rain is an allusion to the white hens standing beside the rain-glazed red wheelbarrow in the famous poem by William Carlos Williams – “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a poem which is very simple on its surface, but critics and teachers have mined it for all kinds of significance. Billy Collins is a master at pointing out poetic pretension!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes! I remember reading that in my college poetry class. Poor WCW is rather dissected with a microscope. Those brown hens may yet find their way out of my tortured psyche and into a poem, just because I don’t want them to. LOL


  2. Violet, you planted many seeds during the month and I know that it was a very satisfying experience for you. I hope that you will share a couple of them for my upcoming gallery, Spring’s Seeds. The quote you created in a digital composition is bright and inspiration. May I use it for the gallery as an inspirational spark? If so, let me know and place it at the hashtag site that I created, #SpringsSeeds. Thanks.


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