Life After Poem-A-Day

It's been a month since my quest to write a poem every day for a year has ended. What have I been up to since then? Ah, well, now is the time to let the librarian in me come for a visit. I am organizing all of those poems, and the previously written poems, into manuscripts.

I'm noticing that writing every day has given me a confidence in myself and my abilities that wasn't there before hand. Upon re-reading poems that I truly enjoy which I wrote during that time, I have come to believe in my talent more. Therefore, upon finding an older poem that I like but want to improve, I'm not as quick to leave it for some other time. I'm ready to believe that I can figure out what the poem needs to be what it wants to be.

Another thing that has helped me as a writer is being a teacher of poetry -- the third graders and I just finished a big, awesome, fun and prolific poetry unit. We filled up notebooks of drafts, drawings, quotes, thoughts, doodles and notes. Then we all picked one poem to revise, edit and publish. Trying to teach the method of revising to young students made me really have to codify what that phase of writing entails. I showed them drafts of a poem I wrote, so they could see phases and reasons for choices--what to add, what to subtract, what to rearrange. But then when I left them to do the same with their work, there was a leap from what they saw me do to what they could translate for themselves and the leap was a bit too large. What I ended up doing was thinking about what often gets cut from my own drafts: abstract words for concrete ones and flat verbs for vivid ones. (A third thing I'm often unhappy with and trying to junk is prepositions but I didn't focus on that with the students because knowing and recognizing that part of speech is often a challenge for adults!) I took what I do so naturally after years of working on writing and really thought about it, down to its lowest common denominator, then outlined those steps for the students and turned it into an exercise for them. I plan to post a lot more about this once I have time to put together all of my materials from the last month. But it's well documented in education literature that thinking about your thinking is the surest way to really internalize a concept. I've found that helping young poets (for they consider themselves young poets now) revise has helped me revise since I can more quickly decide what needs to be worked on and why.

I have an old manuscript of poems that I am hoping to finally complete. I also am going through the new poems, which I posted on a private blog, and using the labeling function on Blogger to help me organize them into where they might work in existing manuscripts or might go to new ones.

My hope now is to get things to the point where I really think they belong published out in the open. I haven't felt that way about much, which is why I haven't been focused on that part of things yet. I'm ready to think about that more.

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