April is Poetry Month. I’ve been reading several other blogs, and they have entries listing their favorite poems, poets, original poetry, etc. Alice Friman is one of my favorite poets. I attended a poetry reading by her on March 29. She read from her new book The Book of the Rotten Daughter, poems that were written while she was dealing with the death of her father and mother. The poems are powerful, and they show how much grief and death are a part of life.
The following weekend, I attended a workshop given by Jennifer Bosveld of Pudding House Publishing House at the Writers’ Center of Indiana. The workshop was valuable and interesting even though it was not what I expected at all. I thought I was signing up for a workshop on writing and critiquing individual poems; instead the workshop was geared toward looking at poetry chapbook collections and possible publishing by Pudding House. Since I haven’t even written enough poems to fill a chapbook, let alone have that many published, I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place. I still learned a lot about writing poetry from Ms. Bosveld and about publishing, chapbooks, and life in general. One of the first things I learned was “Turn off your cell phone BEFORE the poetry reading starts!” I rarely get calls on my cell phone, so I forgot. Guess what? My phone rang right in the middle of a reading. That was embarrassing!
Another thing on my mind is “showing up.” I’ve been reading a lot of personal development websites and also Kate DiCamillo’s journal on her writing site. She has an article about the importance of showing up, every day. Almost all of the personal development people emphasize the habit of showing up. Last week, I decided (and even wrote in my journal) that I was going to show up. Show up on my blog, show up at exercising, show up to write every day, show up in all the areas where I want to improve. Even as I wrote that, I realized that that is a lot showing up! And now that I’ve tried to live the showing up for a week, I also realize that if I show up for everything, every day, including my full time job and the normal everyday house and food activities, then I am going to have to quit showing up for sleep! If I try to do all those things, I stay up late, get up early and then crash by the time the weekend gets here. And if I go to bed exhausted, then I don’t show up for my potential practices. (Of course, I DID manage to show up for Dancing with The Stars and American Idol—I couldn’t miss those! Especially Dancing with the Stars—watching that show satisfies my soul. Seeing all the contestants, both professional and celebrity, glide, stomp, shimmy and shake across the floor just makes me happy. I love dancing, love to do it myself and love to watch others dancing. So I couldn’t give that up!
Steve Pavlina wrote about being consistent and showing results. He wrote about “self-help junkies,” people who read self-help books, who are always looking for that next magic piece of knowledge that will change their lives, yet their lives never change. They never apply what they DO know. That struck home with me. I own and read tons of self-help books. I own and read tons of writing books. Books about diet, exercise, becoming wealthy. Yet I read them and the knowledge just stays inside my head. Or I try different strategies, and then let them go. So the message, “Show up! Take action!” comes to me through several messengers. I really think this is the lesson for me to learn right now. SHOW UP. TAKE ACTION.
Another fantastic writer, David St. Lawrence had some good advice on his blog, Ripples. He wrote about how to make a fresh start and get yourself out of “almost any hole you have put yourself into.” He says to “write down your most immediate and serious problem. Find one thing you can do about it today and do it.” Once you’ve done that, then pick your next step and do it. Then the next step. And do it. Eventually you will work your way out of the pit. This message gives me hope. It’s doable. If I show up.
Be sure to check out David’s blog. All of his articles are well written and thought provoking and enjoyable to read.
Back to poetry: one of the things Jennifer Bosveld had each participant to do was name our favorite poets. Among the wide variety of favorites, one name kept repeating: Mary Oliver. Billy Collins, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, and William Stafford were mentioned more than once. I also like Luci Shaw—one of my dreams is to meet her some day and take a poetry workshop from her. I love Billy Collins; he’s funny and wonderful to listen to. I like Beth Ann Fennelly, Andrea Potos, and Greenish Lady’s poetry. Oh, and Linda Pastan and Nancy Willard. The longer I think about poetry, the more poets I remember. I know some one on some site that I came across during my web travels recommended reading a poem a day for the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month. And by reading one poem a day, every day for thirty days, rather than bingeing and then starving throughout the month, we can practice being consistent. Show up. Take action.