Sunday, September 6, 2020

40 Days, 40 Writes

Before I resumed the chalkboard poems in September, I was engaged in two other projects--one was reading: the Sealey Challenge to read poetry books in August, and one was writing: 40 Days, 40 Writes, designed to immerse you in daily writing practice. These projects overlapped and kept me very busy! And I recommend both!

Writing for 40 days again reminded me that the word "quarantine" refers to a 40-day period, a definition I encountered in various places as we all socially isolated starting in March. Ships had to stay docked for 40 days before passengers and crew could disembark during the Black Plague, though isolation periods for contagion existed long before that particular word came into use. One of the upcoming sessions at 40 Days, 40 Writes will use prompts created by writers during an earlier coronavirus quarantine session.

The new sessions start September 7, Labor Day--the basic session; September 14--a memoir session, and September 21--an alumni session for those who have done an earlier session. Programs are free, but you can donate. I recommend this for those who want to develop a daily writing practice as regular as a daily yoga practice or meditation practice, something you look forward to that also challenges you and helps you create your own rituals and/or insures you make time and space to write. Leader Robin sends little encouraging tips and reminders as you go, answers questions, and solves problems!

Since I have various forms of daily writing practice, I tended to use this as a freewriting opportunity, using the prompt and the suggested amount of time (in minutes that gradually increase) to explore what was on my mind and in my subconscious at the time of writing.

This alternated with times I read the prompt early and then mused on it during my walk to work and back, so the writing might be more rooted and planned by the time I physically wrote it down observing the time period.

Some of my writing came out in poem drafts, and I did notice a gradual readiness for new poems by the end of the 40 days, which may have been reinforced by all the reading during the Sealey Challenge! Of course, now I am writing poems about cryptids for a call for submissions from Jessy Randall, guest editing at Snakeskin! This one is the Kraken, aka Colossal Octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort.

And now it is raining, though probably not for 40 days and 40 nights...

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Chalkboard Poems

On September 1, I resumed my little chalkboard poem project, a poem a day on an easel-style green chalkboard (stained from paint and pastel crayons) standing beside my front stoop. I did this in June, to bring a little cheer via Facebook and Instagram, and it did! But I knew I needed a rest and other projects to feel freshly inspired, so I did a lot of reading and other kinds of writing over the summer, and now I'm back to the chalkboard at back-to-school time. 

I was feeling a little down yesterday--had visited my folks outdoors, my "down in the dumps" mom who was (yay!) no longer down in the dumps, and came home feeling suspended, meaningless. It's the whole Covid thing, yes, the general isolation, the local worry from an extreme uptick in cases (related to college students returning*), and missing hugging, but I realized this morning that I always get a little nostalgic and sad at back to school time, because I'm not going back to school! And neither are my kids (grown). And neither are a lot of kids now. My heart goes out to all the teachers, students, and parents coping with the wild disruption and worry of school right now. Along with everything else.

The chalkboard poems are another way to structure my day, my month. I rise early, write the poem on the board, often in first light, with the porch light on, take the Instagram photo, email it to myself, and arrange text with image at Facebook. It is cheering my online pals, and I'm glad of that, though not all poems are/will be cheerful. Some will be melancholy, like me, some stark, some with dark humor, and some with bright joy. The whole mix. A little blurry.

I tend toward a haiku-like poem that will fit on the board, some depending heavily upon their titles. I say "haiku-like" because I learned later in life that haiku doesn't really have that 5-7-5 syllabic form we were taught in American grade schools. Nor titles! So mine will often be variations. I tend to write them during the day, or in my head during a walk, adjusting them in chalk, as needed. 

I got new "dustless" chalk over the summer to prepare for this, having used chalk stubs for the June poems. Perhaps these will grow more lush. The days continue to be beautiful. I ignore my indoor chores, though yesterday, guilt drove me indoors long enough to dust the living room surfaces, including my stacks of books and journals ready for the winter hibernation coming all too soon, perhaps with a second lockdown. (I've written that poem already and hope I don't have to use it.)* So there you have it, my first week of back-to-the-chalkboard poems, with pictures and invisibility.

*Not all the students are to blame, of course. Just the ones who congregated hugely in parties as if no one would get sick, and ignoring the rules (the way I ignore my chores, slattern that I am). I'm pleased to see students walking around town now in masks. Thank you! As doom looms, let's be kind to one another.