A new villanelle and the end of NaPoWriMo

Well, it’s official – on the last morning of April I have finished NaPoWriMo – I have written 30 poems in 30 days (in reality in about 15 days but anyway), and so I can now tick off both writing challenges for the month (the other being Camp NaNoWriMo which I talked about here).

I find I learn a lot about myself writing poetry this way. I’m not the sort of person who spends hours on each and every poem. Some poems come to me in minutes. Some of my poems also suck, but some are kind of okay and sometimes the okay ones can be the quick ones too. I definitely think being in Sweden has affected my poetry this time around, with many of them revolving around the seasons (and hence being haiku), in particular Winter and Spring. But some of the themes I have touched upon in my poems have come from who knows where.

Anyway, I only wrote one villanelle this month, but they are my favourite kind of poem so I figured I’d share it. If you want to read about how villanelles work (and some better examples of the form), I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post here, otherwise read on to see my latest villanelle:

Strong coffeeYou take your coffee extra strong tonight
It’s been a long and lonely day
But you’re going to come through alright

You look exhausted, a terrible sight
You’re unsure how long you’ll stay
So you take your coffee extra strong tonight

Because you don’t want to sleep this night
You have only just run away
But you’re going to come through alright

It took so long for you to see the light
To realise you shouldn’t exist that way
That’s why you take strong coffee tonight

You never tried to put up a fight
But you couldn’t hide from his violent display
You never thought you’d come through this alright

But never again will he give you such a fright
You’ve reclaimed your life, come what may
You take your coffee extra strong tonight
Because from now on everything will be alright

I won’t explain it much, because I feel it’s fairly self-explanatory what it’s about. I often find myself drawn to sad themes when I write villanelles, often of people trying to escape from some kind of pain or suffering, or sometimes about them not managing to escape but simply hoping to one day. I just find the circular nature of the poem forces me to really think about what I’m writing more, to really hone in on a singular moment and dig as deep as I can.

Anyway, with two writing challenges out of the way, it’s time for me to go rest, read, and think of all the blogging I’m going to do in May – I’m going to aim for three posts a week minimum, so stay tuned!

A couple of poems from my NaPoWriMo collection

Now that I’ve caught up on Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been focusing more energy on the poetic front to catch up on NaPoWriMo (somebody tell me why I thought it was a good idea to take on two writing challenges at the same time?).

Strangely enough, the haiku I’ve been writing are among some of the better poems, so I thought I’d share two more I’ve written that I only shared on my Instagram yesterday. I’ll transcribe them below, and explain them more afterwards.

It reads: Endless oceans sway Blue on blue, no cloud up high. Dark desert below.

It reads:
Endless oceans sway
Blue on blue, no cloud up high.
Dark desert below.

It reads: Grey day, grey dad, why did you have to take the sun away? We were warm.

It reads:
Grey day, grey day, why
did you have to take the sun
away? We were warm.

The first poem was my attempt at writing about the deceptiveness of the ocean – the way it can be like nothingness going on forever, like a desert, yet can and does hold all these stories, some of which are beautiful and some of which are dark or tragic.

The second poem was quite simply about that day – we have had surprisingly warm weather here in this part of Sweden, and this day was a grey day and a lot cooler (but still really warm, to be honest), so I thought I’d write something silly and sweet about it.

Anyway, back to writing I go. Only a few days left of the month…

A limerick about a dog

Today is a writing catch-up day of epic proportions. Ten days into the month, I started today a full week behind schedule on both Camp NaNoWriMo (where I’m writing 30000 words worth of short stories) and NaPoWriMo (where I’m writing 30 poems).

Anyway, amidst all the writing lunacy a silly limerick tiptoed out of my whirling mind and onto the page, and while some forms of poetry I’d be more nervous about showing people, limericks are meant to be silly. So here goes:

IMG_20140410_155659

 

In case you can’t read my awful handwriting (bad writing is a sign of being intelligent right? Right? Oh come on…pleeeease can it be?), I’ll type up the poem here for you:

There once was a dog called Stinker
He pooped too much and was a drinker
But one day he drank mead
While drunk he learned to read
Now he’s called Stinker the Thinker

As I write this blog post, I am now three days behind on the poetry front but still six behind with the short stories, so it’s time to return to the world of talking animals (which is mostly what my short stories have become).

Until next time…unless I lose my mind in a storm of caffeine induced panic.

On the eve of lunacy

Wow, the title of this blog post is cooler than I meant it to be.

Anyway, tomorrow begins April, and with it a wide array of writing challenges. Thousands of people around the world will write their hearts out for Camp NaNoWriMo, a more flexible variation on the novel writing challenge I complete each November. Thousands of other people will write a poem a day for the whole month for NaPoWriMo. Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’m going to be doing both.

I’ve set my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo at 30 000 words, focusing on writing satire/comical short stories so that I can work on my humorous and short story writing styles at the same time. So each day will require me to write 1000 words of short story and a poem – I suspect the poem will take longer, but we’ll see.

Camp NaNoWriMo has a cabin based system, where you are put into a cabin with 11 other writers who you can work with and support and who will hopefully make the month more fun and exciting. You can elect to have some writers you know in your cabin, but it’s still down to chance and there’s no real guarantees – I have ended up somewhere with nobody I know (at least I think I don’t know them). Luckily, they all seem to be very friendly, so hopefully it should be a great 30 days working with these new people.

As for the planning…well, it looks a little something like this:

Planning is going well, 7 hours out from the starting time.

Planning is going well, 7 hours out from the starting time.

Good luck to anybody out there trying their hand at either of these events! And wish me luck…I don’t know if there is enough caffeine in the world to get me through this but I’m about to find out. I’ll post about my progress in a few days.

Camp NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo, or Why I’ll Lose My Mind In April

As you all know, I’m a little crazy.

Oh, sit down and stop applauding and nodding so vigorously, would you? Sheesh!

Anyway, as you also possibly know if you’re a long time reader of my blog, I like writing challenges. I like to push myself with my writing because I believe it does help me to become a better writer over time, and as much as I would love to become a published novelist I refuse to publish anything until I feel I’m a strong enough writer to let my work go free into the world (well, not actually free because…anyway you get the point).

So next month, in April, it appears I am taking not one but TWO challenges. Yeah, who’s crazy now huh? Oh right, it’s still me.

2014 Camp Nano-Participant-Vertical-BannerAnyway, I have just signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. Remember that crazy novel writing month thing I do every November? This is their other event that you can do in April and another month of the year (I think July). It’s much more flexible, so at the moment I have set it to just 30 000 words that month and I am writing short stories instead. The other thing I have signed up for is NaPoWriMo, the poetry event where I write 30 poems in 30 days. So basically each day of April I’ll be writing 1000 words worth of short story plus a poem. More than likely next month will be the month I suddenly get a job and start learning Swedish at an increasing pace (goodbye sleep).

For more information:

campnanowrimo.org – for all your Camp NaNoWriMo needs. If you want to find my profile it’s at http://campnanowrimo.org/campers/mattius-watsonnius – I would love to contact others who are doing it on there. It would be good to get a cabin of people I already know online (I’m not fully sure how this cabin system works yet).

http://www.napowrimo.net/ – The site for NaPoWriMo is very simple and straightforward, but you can join up and it would be great to see extra support for this growing event.

Let me know on either of these sites, my Twitter or of course on here if you are joining in on either of these events – it’s always great to take on these challenges with other amazing writers!

NaPoWriMo completed with moments to spare

NaPoWriMo 2013Well, a bit over an hour to spare, but it feels like moments. Yes indeed, I have completed the challenge this year (making up for falling apart last April) and have written 30 poems in 30 days, so I can now add NaPoWriMo to the list of writing challenges I have conquered.

Except, 30 poems in 30 days is kind of lying. Not because I didn’t write 30 poems, but because I wrote all 30 of them in 6 days. April 1, 7, 19, 21, 28 and 30, to be precise. I updated you all about a week and a half ago on my huge catch up on this challenge, but then promptly failed to keep writing a poem a day again, and so have had to do a huge catch up on 7 poems tonight, and I already had plenty to do this evening.

Anyway, the point is, I have done it! And though I’ve written a lot of pretty bad poetry, there are a few okay(ish) poems in this lot. I might share some of them, I might not – I haven’t quite decided and I need to look back over it all with a fresh mind anyway, as it is late at night and I desperately need sleep.

Anyway, how has everybody else completing writing challenges this month gone? Are you on track to finish? If so, good luck!

A poem: my attempt at a pantoum!

Before we get to my pantoum that I wrote today as part of the poetry writing challenge I am attempting, I should probably explain the form itself.

A pantoum is made of an indeterminate amount of stanzas (as in, you can write as few or many as you like) all made up of four lines. The second and fourth lines of each stanza also become the first and third line of the next stanza, and so on through the poem, and the final stanza repeats the unrepeated first and third lines from the first stanza. As a result, each line is repeated twice, and the poem attains a sort of cyclical feel to it, always coming back to the same ideas. While some people now believe it is not important to have a rhyme scheme, I like to rhyme each couplet, so that the rhyme scheme ends up something like abab bcbc cdcd and so on.

If none of that made much sense, just read my poem and the structure at least might come across more clearly.

This form is really quite challenging and I definitely don’t feel I have mastered it, but this is the first pantoum I have written in some time so I thought I would share it (even though I’m actually quite nervous). Enjoy!

The Cold Ground – A Pantoum

The crowd has gathered round
Unsheltered from the icy rain
As he’s placed into the cold ground
Gazed upon with pity and pain

Unsheltered from the icy rain
This bitterness has a sharp sting
Gazed upon with pity and pain
A big fall for one who was once king

This bitterness has a sharp sting
They watched him slide off the rails
A big fall for one who was once king
And who never found his own grail

They watched him slide off the rails
Now the crowd has gathered round
He never found his own grail
It’s too late, he’s deep in the cold ground

And there we have it, my first and last attempt at a pantoum for this poetry challenge. It was fun, and the last two lines I had to come up with (in other words, the first and third of the last stanza) were particularly challenging as I had to wrap it all up somehow and bring it back to where it started, but I am glad I wrote it.

What are your thoughts on this form, and on my attempt at it?

Oops I did it again…, or, The Procrastinator returneth (another NaPoWriMo update)

NaPoWriMo2013As you may recall from my last NaPoWriMo post, I started off this month of writing a poem a day by writing one on the first day of the month, then writing the next six all on the same day, on April 7.

Well, things kind of went downhill after this. And by downhill I mean that when I woke up this morning, on April 19, my grand total of poems written this month was…still only seven. Yeah, oops, I know.

I think one of the things that keeps allowing me to fall so far behind with the poetry writing is the fact that, in comparison with other writing challenges (most notably NaNoWriMo in November when I write a 50 000 word novel along with hundreds of thousands of people all around the world), there isn’t much of a sense of urgency. You can’t rush poems. Sometimes you happen to write them quickly, because the images and words just happen to flow through your head perfectly, or at least good enough to scribble down, but most of the time you need to at least sit and ponder a while, think about how you are going to shape your poem, and relax yourself as you slowly piece it together. It shouldn’t be a stressful process, basically.

Oh, also, I’m a terrific procrastinator. That definitely has a lot to do with how I fell twelve poems/days behind schedule. Here are some of the things I like to do to waste time instead of writing poetry:

  • Baking unnecessarily large amounts of, well, baked goods. Even when you only live with one other person who often isn’t home.
  • Staring out of the window, not actually thinking about anything at all. Just staring at the clouds or something like that.
  • Driving to the same place several times because I keep forgetting the thing I went there for in the first place.
  • Playing stupid pointless games on Facebook (whoever got me addicted to Bejewelled again…you will pay!).
  • Making another coffee, as I’ve only had two this hour all day (honest).
  • Checking my phone even though it’s not on silent so I would know if I had anything to check.
  • Watching cartoons because I’M A GROWN UP AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!

I also have been doing many things worthy of my time, like cleaning my house, helping my sister move some of her stuff from one house to another, getting my brain scanned (no, really), and of course reading. But I am awfully good at procrastinating – seven years of university will do that to you.

Anyway, after that somewhat spectacular digression…back to my poetry writing problem.

So I’ve clawed back today and am now only four days behind, so I’m pretty happy with that on the whole. I will finish this challenge this month, no matter what it takes (which is mostly just procrastinating a little less). What is interesting me is the topics of some of my poems, which are flittering between aspects of my personal life, and some of the things going on in the world this last week or two. Sometimes the poetry I write is much more general and not time-specific, but I suspect these poems will evoke memories in me when I look back on them one day.

How are you all going with your various writing endeavours?

NaPoWriMo 2013: Week One Round-up

NaPoWriMo 2013I was off to a smashing start for this year’s NaPoWriMo, in which I write 30 poems in 30 days. The 1st of April was a public holiday for us in Australia, and so I had the whole day to run around getting various things done and still have time to write my first poem for the month. I wrote it quickly and with ease, a series of haiku ending in a senryu, and while I’m not overly keen on sharing it on here, I was fairly happy with it for the first poem I had written in some time.

Then the 2nd of April came along. The 3rd and 4th quickly followed, the 5th whooshed by, and the 6th snuck past me while my eyes were closed mid-sneeze (I’m a violent sneezer – I once sneezed so hard while standing up that I fell back into a chair. And by ‘once’ I mean it happens all the time).

But today, on the 7th of April, I woke up…feeling pretty awful actually. But anyway, fast forward to this afternoon, and I decided now was the time to catch up on this poetry, before it really is too late. And so I picked up the little writing pad I’m using for NaPoWriMo this year, and a pen, and I started scribbling down some poems, until a couple of hours later I was suddenly caught up (much to my own surprise).

The poem for day 2 was just a simple, quick haiku about a wintry day by the sea. Day 3 was a longer, free form poem about how life can feel like it is speeding away at its own pace and there’s nothing you can do but run along with it and see what happens (a feeling that I’m sure we all get from time to time). Day 4 was a silly limerick about a drunkard. Day 5 was inspired by a wedding I went to on that day. Day 6 was a villanelle for and about my girlfriend (and she will be the only one who will ever see/hear it), and today’s poem was a series of six haiku that were all vaguely based on some record breaking hot days from this summer that has just ended here in Australia.

So I’m all caught up, and ready to fall behind by a week again. But luckily I have one more week of teaching and then the kidlets (well…teenagers, they’re hardly kidlets) go on holidays for a couple of weeks, so I’ll have plenty of time for poetry writing later in the month.

For my fellow NaPoWriMoers, how are you going? What about those of you doing other writing endeavours such as Camp NaNo? I would love to hear from you all!

I can’t believe it’s not a haiku…

HaikuI’ve addressed this issue before, but quite a long time ago now, and I figured that considering it’s National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo, and as I found myself just recently explaining this to both friends and some of my students, that it would be a good time to mention this again.

You see, a lot of people write what they think is a haiku, except what they are writing is not in fact a haiku. This in itself is a bit of a contentious issue – some believe that they it is not a true haiku unless in Japanese, as that language has features that help the haiku to be appreciated on a greater level than in English. Others also argue about how many syllables are supposed to be in each line, while others again argue that none of this is that important.

But there is one aspect that, to me at least, is quite important – the content. Many people write in the haiku form about people or feelings, and automatically this makes whatever they are writing not a haiku but a senryu – kind of like a sister form, one could say. A haiku needs to reference the season somehow, or at the very least the weather, the atmosphere, and nature – this reference word is called a kigo word. The haiku should contain little to no verbs at all, focusing instead on engaging the senses with a quick snapshot of nature. The senryu instead focuses on human nature, rather than geographical nature, with a lack of kigo word.

Aside from this, the generally accepted rules are much the same – 3 lines, the first line with 5 syllables, the second with 7, and the last with 5 again. Both forms are quite fun, and while the haiku is more popular, a lot of beat poets (such as Ginsberg and Corso) enjoyed the senryu, and more importantly what most people think is a haiku is quite often a senryu.

I’m sure some people will think I have too much time on my hands to worry about such silly, tiny details with these forms, but I can’t help but think that if you’re going to write specific poetic forms, you should take the time to learn about them and write them properly. They are much more enjoyable that way, and you’ll grow more as a poet by making yourself stick to the at times rigid rules that come with some types of poetry. And besides, we only keep these forms alive by practising them, and doing so in the correct manner.

What are your thoughts on these rules of writing a haiku – do you think they are necessary? Were you aware of them previously?