poetry as a stunt

This summer as part of an online course, I took a break from being online.

I know. My best friend laughed, too.

In July, I enrolled in Stunt Writing for Personal Growth, a course taught by writer Erin Jourdan. While looking for a stunt, I brainstormed a list of ways I could improve or challenge myself.

Yes, the list was long.

Since it was summer, I decided it was the perfect time for getting up off my ass and away from the computer. Here was the plan that I submitted to the class:

When I see people staring down at their phones, I admit that I get a sense of smug superiority. At least I’m not chained to my phone, I think. You’ll have to pry my old flip phone from my cold, dead hands because I have no interest in getting replacing it with a smartphone.

Unfortunately, shunning those devices doesn’t make me a better person. When I really think about it, my addiction to the internet is equally bad. How many times have I not heard my husband because I was reading a blog post? How often do I say, “Just a minute” to my son because I’m in the middle of composing a Tweet? What have I ignored because I was more focused on Facebook instead of the world around me? The most important question: what could I accomplish if I spent less time in front of a computer?

Over the next three weeks, I will confront my fear of missing out by severing ties to social media. I will tackle projects for which I believed I had no time because I was too busy online. I will improve the quality of my interactions with others by eliminating the distraction of the internet. I will forgo multitasking and fully immerse myself in reading and writing. Except for work-related and a specific set of necessary tasks, I will go offline scheduling a limited amount of time each day for the “necessary” tasks.

Those three weeks were easier than I expected. Sure, I missed being able to Google every little thing. Yes, I did wonder if everyone was having fun without me. But for the most part, I found plenty of offline activities to fill my time.

One of those activities was writing poetry. I borrowed the book How to Write Poetry from the library and worked my way through the exercises. I used notebooks and scraps of paper to play with words and compose verse. I ended up with several poems that I would later edit and publish on my blog when I returned from my internet detox.

But you know what the best part was? All of those poems you’ll never read. The totally crappy, overdone, underdone, unflowing, nonsensical poems that filled the pages of my notebooks. There’s nothing quite as bad as bad poetry. But I didn’t let this stop me. I wrote it, chuckled and moved on. Out of these terrible attempts sprouted ideas for better poems. 

Below are some tritinas I composed. Are these examples of those better poems I was talking about? Nope. But I finally got some practice at crafting them instead of freezing up, worrying about whether they would be good enough, so afraid of failing I didn’t even try.

For one of our assignments, Erin had selected a sentence from each class members’ previous post and assembled them in a list. She invited us to pick one and use it as a springboard for our daily writing practice. I took three and used them as the final lines in these tritinas.

I

I cannot keep a secret
unless I form a mental space
inside my brain and label it “Do not share.”

But sometimes I do share,
forgetting it was supposed to be secret.
I send the words out into space.

Yet no one knows about this space,
one that I am reluctant to share,
this one place I can actually keep a secret.

It is my secret space, even though others share it.

II

Why do I give chase?
If I am in motion, how can there be stillness?
It is as elusive as a high-flying kite’s tail.

This is not a game of pin the tail
on the donkey. I shouldn’t spin and chase
after my target, that lovely, quiet stillness.

I want to embrace the stillness
but that’s like trying to catch a tiger by its tail
yet it is a power that I must chase.

I chase stillness like a dog chases her own tail.

III

I wish I could remember where I put
the love, the faith, the hope, the trust
that I once had for paper.

How I have missed using paper,
the sacred place on which I put
my pen, my words, my thoughts, my trust.

Technology, I cannot trust.
I don’t need electricity to use paper,
where grand ideas are often put.

I put my trust in those bits of paper.

It’s Day 20 of the NaBloPoMo/NanoPoblano/yeah write NoMo challenges, the perfect time to trot out my less than perfect poetry. 

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