Tuesday, 13 June 2017

In pursuit of writing time: my Month of May Poetry Challenge (and a new poem)

While I struggle to find the time to dedicate solely to writing I am conscious of the need to do just that. Pursuit of dedicated writing time is a major reason why I attend, organise and promote workshops. It is why I completed the Iowa Writers MOOC How Writers Write Poetry why I have done NaPoWriMo, why I joined Kevin Higgins' online workshop.
I also realise that although the actual writing is a solitary activity, for me an important impetus is the group; the joint participation, the feedback, the energy, the companionship it offers.
So, when I was invited to join a poetry writing challenge on Facebook for the month of May, I jumped at the chance. I would have to commit to sitting at my desk (mostly kitchen table) for a set amount of time per day. Some of the group were familiar to me and included Nick from Garden Room Writers, but most were not.

And that way, May began with a daily prompt, a word or image, and twenty-four hours to respond. At school May is busy with planning and marking student revision, so it was almost always after 10 pm when I sat down to consider my poem. Incredibly, the poems would come. Not all masterpieces but many of them solid first drafts. Most interesting were the poems I wrote that I wouldn't have reached on my own without the prompts.

The camaraderie of the group was important  and the diverse voices without a doubt enriched the month's writing. It was impossible to resist the urge to read what others posted on my lunch-break and at the end of the day (Facebook is blocked on my work computer and 4G coverage poor). Maybe I would have been better to try to respond 'blind', I'll never know. I was surprised by the angles people took, the quality of the writing produced in these constraints and the productivity of everyone involved, not least my own.

The quality of my own responses varied, there were "Yes" moments definitely, but some writing was a chore and reads that way. I persisted even with prompts I disliked, as the discipline of the challenge was so important to me. There were tired evenings and busy evenings, the latest post from me was 11.58 pm. I missed two poems but was determined to get back and I did, writing three responses on May 27th which I posted at 8.36, 8.59 and 11.22 pm.

The challenge produced poems (which is not to be undervalued) but did it instill that all important writing habit? Yes, resoundingly, yes. It certainly proved what I've been told often. Of course you will write if you sit down to write, it is unlikely to happen otherwise.
I have written more since the end of May, although I admit not every day. But still. I'm on holidays now, and excuse free, I have a body of work to edit and submit. I feel satisfied with 31 pieces of work produced in May, nine of which I consider worthy pieces. I have never written nine poems in a month.

Here is my response to 'Tame' and a photo of my print of one of Kim Sharkey's beautiful hares.


There is fox in that glic eye
hare in the mad dash of you
the badger in you won't relent
you are salmon sure of your path
hedgehog safe when you roll

my frog adaptable dear one
don't tame for them,

not entirely.


  1. Enjoyed this post, sounds eerily familiar (also did HWWP, NPWM and currently in the Higgins workshop). Very nice poem, and that print is mesmerizing! Any idea if/where I might be able to obtain one?

    1. Hello, Thank you, you can reach Kim through her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kim.sharkey.9
      I bought my print in the coffee shop in Bunbeg (Gaoth Dobhair) a few weeks ago.


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