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My So-Called NaPoWriMo Life

For those of you who didn’t know, April is National Poetry Writing Month! This blog post was written by our resident poet and Director of Adult Programming, Al Abonado.


I am going to write terrible poems. I don’t start with the intention of writing bad poems, but I know I will. I accept this as a given. National Poetry Month is also known as National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) for many poets. For the past few years, I, like many other poets, try to write a poem every day for the month of April. This is poetry’s analog to National Novel Writing Month.

For some, this month can be a necessary injection of creative energy, or an exciting exercise. Some may use this as an excuse to force themselves through any kind of writer’s block. NaPoWriMo has become a ritual for many of my writing friends. During this month, I share my writing with a circle of writers. We exchange supportive notes and writing prompts that help stimulate our writing. Some years have been more productive than others, but I always look forward to participating.

For me, NaPoWriMo isn’t so much about the volume of finished writing, but the volume of failure. It is about learning to accept that failure as a necessary part of any writing. NaPoWriMo can be invigorating, surprising, depressing, and infuriating.

To date, I have completed fifteen poems, not all of which are good. Maybe none are good. I haven’t really spent too much time thinking about them since I wrote them. I will have plenty of time after this month to go back and reshape the scraps into something substantial. For now, I take pleasure in the act of writing, relieve myself of any expectations about writing “well,” and enjoy writing as an exploratory activity.
Here, I try to chart my progress over the past 20 days, describing the various waves of excitement, guilt, shame, laziness, distraction, and joy that I have experienced so far.

Day 1

This is easy. I have so many ideas that I find impossible to suppress and I have a laptop that is fully charged. I am armed with prompts and other writers. I am open to the universe and what the universe provides: poetry and wine.

Day 4

I believe in positive reinforcement. Poems are better when they are reinforced by food. When I finish this poem, I will celebrate with a hamburger.

Day 8

I have written a poem that needs more than one day. This is a two-day poem. This may be a three-day poem. I can write more poems on another day. Maybe, I will split this poem into two poems. A stanza for each day. Does it matter? No one will know the difference. I don’t think I know the difference.

Day 12

I am such a fraud. I can’t do this for an entire month. I am going to make dioramas instead. I am going to finally finish The Wire. This poem and the one before that and the one before that have all been terrible. April is not a month for poetry; it is a month for shame and regret.

Day 13

It’s okay if I don’t write today. I need to file my taxes.

Day 14

It’s okay if I don’t write today. I did not file my taxes yesterday.

Day 15

I want to write a poem today, but I also want to watch trailers for The Jungle Book. First, I will watch trailers for The Jungle Book and eat Doritos, and then, I will write a poem. My wife does not want to see The Jungle Book so I lie and tell her that Jason Statham is the voice of the bear. This is not true, but she likes Jason Statham. I am hoping Jason Statham as a talking bear is enough of a reason to convince her to see this movie.

Day 15 pt. 2

I spend an hour on IMDB looking up other movies Jason Statham has been in. He has been in more movies than I thought. I did not know they made a Transporter 3. I will not tell my wife about the latest Transporter movie, although I suspect she already knows.

Day 15 pt. 3

I watch a video about a lion, a tiger, and a bear that had been removed from the home of an abusive and wealthy drug dealer. Two of them are named after characters in The Jungle Book! The animals now live together in a sanctuary. The video makes me want to hold them and feed them something meaty. I should really write a poem today. I could write a poem with a bear in it. I probably will not write a poem, but I am thinking about poetry and that is also pretty good.

Day 17

I wrote a poem! A complete poem! It was glorious! Every synapse blazed with rainbows and glitter as I wrote it. Let all those other poems drown in river. This poem. This is the one. Maybe I can do this. Maybe this is the start of something brilliant.

Nevermind. I hate poetry.

Day 18

No, I really can’t write day because I really need to file my taxes.

Day 19

I still need to write several more poems. I have coffee and energy drinks to do this. I have hours until sunrise, and I finished my taxes. I will write seven poems in one sitting. They will not be beautiful, but they will be written. Which poems will be worth saving and
which will build better and greater poems? I think good poetry has some cannibalism in it. I think good poetry has blood.