Reflecting on Writing 30 Poems in 30 Days

I’m glad I did it — I’m glad I took the challenge of writing 30 new poems in 30 days and lining up “sponsors” who would donate a set amount of money per poem in order to help a local group that supports immigrant families in the Pioneer Valley (where I live). (See initial news story about the project)

But I do wonder about the quality of what I was writing. I felt like I barely had time to take a breath, never mind go as deep as I would have liked to have done in any other time. Don’t  mistake me — I write fast and let ideas bubble, not simmer. But a poem every day was still a challenge. I found myself looking at the small moments of my life, trying to see the world through the poetic lens, and then I tried to capture some of that with poetry.

I also made forays into technology — I wrote a poem with Wordle, with images, as a comic strip movie, in a Prezi presentation and with Voicethread. I wanted to explore some possibilities that aligned nicely with the short-form poems that I was writing. Most days, I podcasted my poems using the free Myna software from Aviary. It was a perfect platform for recording, downloading as MP3 files and then sharing out, too.

I also had this vision of my reader — my sponsors, who were stretched out across the United States (and into New Zealand). Every morning, I would send them off an email with a new poem. Sometimes, they would write back — sometimes, they wrote back with a poem of their own.

Aram, for one, decided early on that he liked the challenge so much that he began posting his own poems in response, sometimes, to mine. Or at least, in response to the challenge. (And it was thanks to Aram that I said hello to Billy Collins.) Another person in our iAnthology network, and a sponsor, took to writing her own 30 poems, too, but she has kept them private. I was grateful that my poetry inspired her to take the chance, too.

I began the month with a poem about “plunging into poetry” and ended it by letting my readers know that “Gratitude is the song I sing” for them being there every day. In between, I wrote about my family, about writing, about my classroom, about the digital world, and more.

Most of the poems were short — five to ten lines long, and I struggled to pack a punch into those lines. I didn’t want the words to just sound nice; I wanted the words to mean something. I hope they did.

So, what do you do with 30 fresh poems? I’m not sure. Right now, they sit in the bin with a previous venture of OnePoemEveryMonthforaYear, and poems written in response to photos posted by Bud the Teacher a few months back and other odds and ends of writing collecting dust.

If I can swing it, I am going to try to go to the poetry reading for the 30Poems in 30Days project at our local library this week (scheduling makes this difficult, so I don’t know …) I’m curious to hear what other folks have been doing and maybe, I’ll be able to share a poem or two of my own to a live, and not just virtual, audience.

Peace (in the poems),

And so ends the 30Poems in 30Days Challenge

(Poet’s note: I’ll write a longer reflection on another day but this is the last poem I wrote for the 30poems in 30days challenge, which supports a worthy group in my hometown. My sponsors are paying me for each poem that I wrote, which I sent them each morning. This final poem is for them — and you — those who spent a moment to read a poem here and there and followed me on this journey. I appreciated it.)

is the song I sing, dear readers,
for the encircling hands that you have held out
to prop up these poems.
Your eyes have guided me;
Your words have strengthened me
when my own thoughts seemed to flutter away
with misdirection.
That which I might have discarded as meaningless
became instead something different
when I considered you, sitting there comfortably with an open heart,
ready for what I had written,
and so I gift-wrapped these ideas again and again to make them ring
like melodies from the distance,
and you — you, dear readers, were the harmony shimmering beneath the lines.
is the song I sing
and I sing it just for you.

Listen to the poem as a podcast.

Peace (in the verse),

Day 29: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: I am almost at the end of this adventure. Today’s poem comes from a workshop that I was in last week around vocabulary instruction. One of  the things we talked about was Semantic Feature Analysis. I was fascinated by the words on this handout that we were given, and created a found poem.)

Semantic Feature Analysis: a found poem


the axis

where words present students

with opportunities –

relate variations plus connections to make

the grid of similarities known

and recognized within this box

of knowledge.

Peace (in the word),

Day 28: 30poems 30days

(Poet’s note: I wanted to use Wordle this month for one of my poems but I could not figure out how best to accomplish that. Single words do not always a poem make, if you know what I mean. Then, by chance (?), I stumbled upon someone’s blog post that showed how to string words together (you use the tilde sign ~ between words). Now I could do it, with a love poem about books. I used the advanced setting of Wordle so that I could weight phrases, allowing some to be larger than others)

Peace (on the page),

Day 27: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: This one is for Duke, our dog, a black lab. Sometimes, he sits there so silent, it’s like he is in meditative thought. Other times, not so much.)

Warm eyes, deep pockets
set in a canvas of black
fur, silently still.

Peace (in the dog),

Day 26: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: I was in a conference last week when the keynote speaker held up a couple of props: colored bendy straws. I forget now what she was saying — sorry — but I started to write a poem, inspired by the bends in the design. I was trying to pay attention … really.)

Peace (in the twist),

Day 25: 30Poems 30Days (The Digital Path)

(Poet’s note: It’s hard not to come away from an exciting conference around technology and writing and not be influenced by the work and talk around you, and so I was after our recent National Writing Project meeting. But I still have questions as we think about young people in this age of digital tools. I don’t think the world has sorted itself out yet. That makes things both exciting and confusing, don’t you think? So, this poem tries to capture that, and what better way than via a digital tool.)

First, the poem:

will all this lead?
All these digital paths
pushing us in different directions
so that we can’t see the forest
for the trees
and therefore, we have no idea
what we have gotten ourselves into –
never mind getting ourselves out.

Then, the Prezi:

Peace (on the path),

Day 24: 30poems 30days

(Poet’s note: This is a longer poem than usual and one that I am not quite sure it works. It is inspired by a reading of the book The Numerati, which looks at how math and data is becoming more and more important as we move more of our world online. The phrases of Buckets, and Barnicles, and Butterflies stayed with me.)

In a book about data and how numbers are becoming us
as we become the math, if you can imagine such a thing,
the concept of “barnacles” and “butterflies” and “buckets” filled my head:

Buckets are us —
all of us put into digital piles by the Numerati
based on interest, habits and exploration —
I’m happy to make room in my bucket for you
if you share my routines and my algorithm.

Barnacles are some of us —
those of us who scour the Sunday news for coupons
and search for the deals so that they can pull
a daytime heist at the store in plain sight of the
anguished managers who wish to scrape them off the sides
of the cashier line.

Butterflies are some of us, too —
those of us who wander about, never showing allegiance
to a brand, or a store, or a product, just simply
an unreliable beauty moving down a wayward path
of unpredictability.

I thought about my classroom —
about who stands in which bucket:
Who is clinging to every word to know “exactly” what to do
to get the best grade possible
but never taking a chance for fear of failure;
or who it is who barely gets a glimpse of the ground
while up in flight of their own imagination
with nary a concern for anything other than the flight.

And me?
I stand here with a net filled with holes
as the ship gets weighed down
and is pushed hard into the iceberg of standardized testing.
And you can bet my bucket is full
with teachers just like you.

Listen to the podcast of the poem.

Peace (in the numbers),

Poetry on the Front Page

A local columnist at the regional newspaper did a nice piece last week on the 30Poems in 30Days fundraising challenge. Bob Flaherty (a novelist in his own right, by the way, with Puff) emailed me a few questions while I was away and then he checked out my voicethread and used some of what we talked about in his article.

It’s great to see the art of writing poetry on the front page of a newspaper.

Here is just the intro and then the section with me, but you can read the entire article either online at the Daily Hampshire Gazette or with this pdf link that I created.

Peace (in the news),