Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Thousand Poems

These evening I hit a milestone that I never would have even imagined as part of my life two years ago: I wrote and posted my thousandth (1000th) poem over at my other blog, Suppertime Sonnets. I started that blog on New Year's Eve, 2008, as a way to hijack my brain and heart out of a long spell of writer's block, after hearing about some photographers who had taken a photo at the same time every day for all of that year. It had changed their sense of themselves as artists and the way they thought about time, they told an interviewer on NPR. It had given them renewed discipline. I wanted that, I realized, as I sat in dismal solitude in my old apartment in what I (charitably, I assure you) called the Vertical Trailer Park. But what was the writer's equivalent of a photo a day? It had to be something more than just starting another blog. It needed to be short and tight and formal. Hence the habit I began to cultivate, the bet that I made with myself: I would write a sonnet a day, no matter what, in 2009. To make it a little more challenging, I'd have it up by suppertime (hence the blog's name). If you look over that blog, you'll see that I went a bit above and beyond the original parameters of that bet. Some days I wrote more than one sonnet, some days I tried my hand at sestinas and villanelles -- oh yeah, and I kept going well beyond 2009. I decided then that I'd see how many days I could go without missing getting at least one new sonnet up each day. That turned out to be 635. That number I reached ignominiously. As many of my friends can attest, I went to comically heroic lengths to make sure I not only got one written but posted to that blog every day -- even when I was on vacation. The challenge on vacation was usually a matter of achieving internet access; I grew adept at using my iPod touch and once, even my Kindle when I couldn't get to a computer, but Wi-Fi signals, especially in airports, are not always so easy to come by. Given that, what caused the halt at 635? Simple forgetfulness. I had rather a bad day at work on Saturday, Sept. 25. Nothing tragic or huge or spectacularly bad, just an ordinary blechy day that had me a bit in the dumps. Usually, on such days, writing the day's sonnet (I often get them done well before suppertime, and write and post them from work) cheers me up, but I skipped it and figured I'd write one when I got home. When I got home, I just sort of sacked out for a little bit and went to bed early, near as I can tell. And thus ended the streak. Six hundred and thirty-five straight days of sonnet-writing is still something to be proud of, and I was, once I got over kicking myself for letting something so trivial end it. I had help from some dear friends in picking myself up and dusting myself off (one of my closest, who was witness to some of my most frantic efforts to get a sonnet posted to the blog while out in the wild, told me that it wasn't that I managed to do it every day that mattered so much as that I was doing it at all), and got right back on task. As I look over what I've pulled off as of today, I'm kind of amazed. I had never written a sonnet before in my life before I started those, and now I quite possibly hold world records for speed (once I wrote one, in front of the late Chris Al Aswad and his lady friend Teia Pearson and in a busy coffee shop, in five minutes. Chris timed it) and maybe for aggregate number, too. That's something, no? I should clarify, though: on that blog you will find, as of today (Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010) 986 sonnets. This year, as I started wanting to stretch a little bit, I branched out and tried my hand at sestinas and villanelles. Those are both even more challenging than sonnets and take a lot more time and planning, so there are only 12 sestinas and two villannelles on the blog at present. I quite like both forms, though, especially when I'm feeling like trying for a narrative, so hey, stay tuned. I still think I'm around 1000 sonnets, though; I've written a few privately here and there offline for special occasions. For that matter, I've a sestina published in a charity anthology, From the Dark Side (the charity it benefits is the Office of Letters & Light, the power behind National Novel Writing Month). Click on the title and buy a copy; there's tons of great, creepy prose fiction and poetry packed into that little volume for your $4.99 and it's a great cause. End shilling. Looking ahead to 2011 (wow, 2011! Insert remarks about flying cars and jetpacks here. Me, I'd settle for biosoft I can plug into my head that lets me speak and understand foreign languages), I'm uncertain if I'm going to keep writing formal poetry at that breakneck pace. As I said in a recent sonnet, it's starting to feel more like a stunt than like real creative work, and I worry I'm becoming a hack. And other challenges beckon; I've signed on with some Twitter friends, Capnmarrrrk and Amuckdesign, to do a joint sketch blog! I sketch a bit (you'll notice a bit of monomania there), but this will be a true stretch for me, and I'm excited! And there are other projects, some I can talk about and some I can't. I'm co-writing a weird western with my friend, the novelist and columnist Adam Christopher (who lives in the country outside Manchester, UK; we plot and plan by the magic of Skype. Who needs jetpacks; living in the future is damned cool!). I'm still beavering away at producing a print collection of my best sonnets, as an ebook at first and on dead tree later on, but DAMN sorting through hundreds of poems and picking the good ones is a lot of work! I occasionally lend my voice to other people's podcasts and see no sign of that stopping anytime soon, and I'm also still contributing pieces to Indie Pulp, the webzine that "wallows in the coolness of indie comics," and have joined two new crazy stables of nerd contributors, at The Functional Nerds and Guerilla Geek. All this while pursuing at least two groovy secret projects. So, am I resting on this arbitrary set of laurels? I am not. But feel free to send me chocolate to congratulate me for this achievement 8)

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