Reflections on Inktober and OctPoWriMo

ReclaimingWell, October was a quite a month, creatively.

I’ve never attempted more than one challenge at a time before.  Moreover, I’d never attempted something that wasn’t a writing challenge before, and this October saw me do both (this was a really special month, you guys).

OctPoWriMo was not a wellspring of expertly crafted poetry.  I was not fond of many of the suggested forms, but because of time constraints, and because of the lingering funk I was in when it came to creativity, I opted in to many of the suggested forms and prompts, even when I didn’t love them.  I’d argue that was good for me; it forced me to be okay with what I considered to be sub-optimal writing — it kind of gave me permission to create something not up to my nearly impossible standards.

In the end, I produced thirty-one poems, a few (very few, but still – a few) of which I am very happy with just as they are — Blue,  Are We Damned?, Here There Are Trees, and A Doe in the Woods come most readily to mind — and several others that I think would be good with some work — Siren, Snake, How Do You Know if Love is Real?, and both of the haibuns fall easily into this category.

The poems that fell entirely flat (to me, at least), are the ones whose forms seem the most “gimmicky;” the blitz, for one, never truly felt like writing poetry (though, as I’ve said several times, I wouldn’t discount it as a writing or brainstorming exercise), and many of the non-traditional syllable counting poems didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped.  Rather than count this as a failure, though, I’d like to walk away considering this a learning experience for me as a writer, discovering and uncovering a little more about what works for me (and what doesn’t) as a poet and writer.

What Inktober did, though, was interesting.  I jumped on Inktober more or less on a whim, because I have never, ever, considered myself a visual artist.  I’ve always liked doodling, but my drawings rarely ventured into more elaborate territory.  People would sometimes compliment a drawing I’d done, but it never went beyond that — I never defined myself as an artist the way I did as a writer.  As a result, I went into Inktober with no expectations — or, maybe the expectation of sucking.  And because I assumed I’d suck — because I “wasn’t an artist” — every time my drawings came out with even an inkling of potential promise, it was a huge, positive surprise which kept me motivated to keep with it.

And at the end of thirty-one days, while I still have a long, longlong way to go, I can see very plainly that the stuff I’ve been producing sucks a little less.  That giving myself permission to not be great and keep going anyway actually lead to me getting better.

I’m am spending my creative energies in November doing NaNoWriMo, as I have almost every year since 2002, and taking a break from (structured, challenge-based) creative endeavors in December (working on lowkey, low pressure personal projects) before jumping back in for another challenge in January.

In retrospect, even if I’ve not been thrilled with the all of the products of my labors in October, I’m proud of hanging in there and producing.  And whether or not I win NaNo, and whether or not I reach 50k, I’m hoping to at least see it through day by day and word by word.

Here’s to a productive November, a recuperative December, and a creatively fulfilling 2019.

OctPoWriMo, Day 31 (Poem 31; The End)

ReclaimingSiren

Always, you pledged,
Before the siren
Called your name;
Drowned in lust,
Eviscerated by your own
Fevered wanting…

God guide you —
Hand to heart,
I prayed;
Jealousy the cross I carried–
Knowing fully how she’d
Lure you back,
My grief a salt-water tomb
No storm could beach.

One day you were gone;
Poor comfort to have seen it coming.
Queer how in my heart
Regret (for what?) roiled like the
Sea.

There are days when sadness overwhelms,
Undulating, in sickening, churning waves.
Visions of you in her arms, like the
Weight of water, overcome.
Except I recall the fate bestowed by sirens.
You live numbered days. I count down to
Zero.


I MADE IT!  This poem wraps up OctPoWriMo, booyah.  This started out at the “endless” prompt (hence the starting word “always”) and went waaay off the rails.  This was written as an abecedarian.

OctPoWriMo, Day 31 (Poem 30)

ReclaimingSelf-Esteem

She looked up, smile askew
Sheepishly accepting
Such stunning accolades —
She had, for the first time,
Shunned the little voices
Shouting her shortcomings,
Silencing them.  She’d won.


This poem was written for — and, shamelessly, about — OctPoWriMo, 31 poems in 31 days.  I made it to the end, guys!  This was written in yesterday’s suggested form of the pleiades.

OctPoWriMo, Day 30 (Poem 29)

ReclaimingI tend to agonize over writing – I do nothing but self-edit and criticize my writing to the point that I never, ever show it to anyone because it never feels “good enough.”  I have not been especially happy with most of my poems this month – some of them I felt that I did the best that I could given a form I didn’t care for (I nonetheless performed as well as I felt I could given the constraints), but the last couple of poems, including this one, written in blank verse, I’m really not thrilled with, because they are literally no restraints on my writing, and I’m just not sure what to do with what I have or where to go with it.

Intellectually, I know this is fine, because I sit down and write these in a very short span of time, and that’s not generally how quality work is produced – you write, and edit, and re-write, etc.  But I still feel self-conscious about my drafts.  Especially when I literally can’t finish them.

No idea how to wrap this poem up.  Suggestions would be welcomed.


Snake

Logically, he assumes your fear
Has to do with getting bitten.

You’re nineteen years old, in his room,
And he’s guiding your hand,
Showing you how to stroke
Slow and sure along its dorsal scales,
Across the undulating pattern
of sand and cobalt.

They aren’t venomous, he says,
As though poison is the only way
To kill.

You pull away.

Once, a boy —
Drunk, slithering, serpentine–
Wound his arms around you
And wouldn’t let you go.


This was written (but not finished – argh!) for OctPoWriMo.

OctPoWriMo, Day 30 (Poem 28)

ReclaimingMirrors

I was fifteen years old when I died
And did not die.

The shrouds are gone from the mirrors,
The end of the mourning marked, strangely,
By the loss of my mother and brother.
I have not seen my face for months.
I can not be sure —
(in any way besides the innate (misplaced) trust
that we have in the honesty of mirrors)
— that the face on the other side is mine.

There is a gauntness to my cheeks I do not recognize.
There is a shifting of shadows not triggered by the light.
My fingers reach out towards the glass and touch
Warm hands and ragged nails.

I was fifteen years old when I died
And did not die.
My visions skews sideways
and goes black.


This was a rework of an older poem that I wrote (inspired very heavily by Welcome to Night Vale) that I repurposed and rewrote for the “split” prompt for OctPoWriMo.

OctPoWriMo, Day 30 (Poem 27)

Reclaiming

Flip Clock

Sometimes I miss my grandmother’s old flip-clock
That sat perfectly centered on the white crocheted doily
On her bedside table,
And how at 11:11, I would hold my breath and wish
Until the soft flutter of the numbers turning over,
Like a closed door, like a turned page, like something new.

Now, I watch the glowing LED.
The numbers cast my room with a sickly glow,
And at 11:11, I hold my breath and wish.

Time slips silently by, one moment to the next.

I keep holding my breath.


This was written for the number prompt during OctPoWriMo.

Today is a day of pretty substantial catching up; I’ve had poems 27 and 28 already written for a few days now, I just haven’t had an opportunity to post, and poem 29 is nearly finished (but not quite).  I’m hoping to get all four out today and be officially caught up.

This has been a crazy month creatively, and I’m a little nervous about delving into NaNoWriMo on Thursday having had no real time to prep, but hey.  I pantsed for years – twice I won with the pantsing method (like, thirteen times I lost, but let’s… let’s just not right now, okay?)

OctPoWriMo, Day 28 (Poem 26)

ReclaimingBlue

You came into the world red-faced, howling;
Your eyes the tumultuous blue of a storm-wrecked sea.

You’d weathered a storm to see me, screamed to the skies
As you were borne, tempest-tossed, into a strange new world.

Now, your eyes, the clear blue of a summer morning;
Your smile an incandescent thing that can dispel the darkest clouds.

You were never meant for December:  your aster eyes shine,
Joy blooms across your face like a perpetual April.


This was written for OctPoWriMo – late, during a bust weekend! – and is a blank verse poem written for the color prompt.