Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Poem-A-Day! Frustration! A Poem & a Poetry Writing Exercise! Book Giveaway!

Hi!  So...if you follow TeachingAuthors, you know that for National Poetry Month I am participating in the poem-a-day challenge.

It's VERY strange. I'm having those naked-in-public dreams.

Most of my poems take days, weeks or months to complete.  At the very least I leave them to "rest" for a day and then come back and read them with fresh eyes. (As it's been said here, revision means to see again.)

So writing a poem and posting it on the same day feels as if I'm an artist and suddenly someone flings open the door of my studio and thirty lookie-loos crowd around me as I'm painting at my easel.

Some days it's fabulous.  I think, Wow...this is so cool, I can't wait to share it! And other days, (yesterday and today, for example), I'm that grim-jawed miner determined to find a poem. 

But it takes a village, right?  My sister, also a writer, sent me the Writer's Digest interview with mystery writer Sue Grafton, which has helped center me today.   I recently heard Sue Grafton speak; I liked how honest she was.  Here's my favorite quote from the interview:

What have you learned in writing the series?
I’m learning the same lesson every single time. I’m learning to trust the process. I’m trying to remember that writing should be a form of play. I keep saying the fate of the free world does not hang in the balance. Even if I write a book that fails, nothing will happen. I’ll be mortified and embarrassed, but lives will not be lost over this. I take writing terribly seriously, and sometimes that just gets in my way. Writing is about the Shadow, which is about play. I just have to learn that again. And, in my own life, it’s like I can’t learn that I’ll rise to the occasion. I do rise to the occasion, but I’m never sure that’s going to happen. I keep thinking, Uh-oh, this is going to be the book that does me in. So that frightens me so desperately that I get into a panic when I should shut my mouth and get on with it. 

I think I may need to post this quote near my desk.

But after I'd finally finished yesterday's poem, I COULD NOT GET IT TO POST properly. I pushed the "update" page...but the spacing was whack-o or all the older poems disappeared.  I also discovered that if I edited it through Firefox it would not necessarily come out right when viewed with Internet Explorer. 

So, I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU, SUE GRATON--the fate of the free world DOES hang in the balance!  At least that's how it felt.  My brain knew that no one would die if I didn't post the poem. But my boiling blood pressure couldn't seem to get the message.

It's obviously time to get some perspective and remember how wonderful my life is.

So, today's WRITING WORKOUT is about a form of poetry I've named the Dayenu poem, a poem about a day or experience for which you are grateful.  These poems make wonderful read alouds...everyone says "Dayenu" as the chorus.

Here's the April 1st post from my Poem-A-Day Challenge :

I have been thinking a lot about the word Dayenu, which we hear each year at the Passover seder.

What’s dayenu?  Here’s a definition condensed from Wiki:

“…The word “dayenu” is Hebrew for “it is enough for us” or “we would have been satisfied.” The song lists the miracles…performed for the Jewish people…The song follows the format “If G-d had done x and not done y, dayenu. If G-d had done y and not done z, dayenu,” and so on. This…expression of gratitude… helps to inculcate a mindset of thankfulness that is appropriate outside the confines of the Seder as well.

I decided to copy the original format (which you can read here) and apply it to one day in my life.  Warning…this is pretty long.  My goal in writing poetry and picture books is to condense, condense, like a soup stock.  But, ironically, this takes time–if I had longer to work on the poem it would be shorter!  So here is a first version of a poem incorporating the idea of  Dayenu.  What could be a better writing assignment?  Relive a really wonderful day.

DAYENU (pronounced: die-Ay-new)
by April Halprin Wayland

If we had driven along the jungley road
And not found the hiking trail

If we had found the hiking trail
And had not reached the hill overlooking the ocean

If we had reached the hill overlooking the ocean
And hadn’t noticed the turquoise water, the hundred shades of green and that red dirt

If we had noticed the turquoise water, those greens and the red dirt
And we not hiked down, down, down to the water

If we had hiked down and climbed over the round grey rocks, right to the water’s edge
And had not gone swimming

If we dove into those turquoise and deep blue waves
And not built cairns when we were done swimming

If we had built the cairns
And had not hiked up, up, up and then dowwwwwn again, back to the car

If we had hiked up, up, up and then down-down-down, back to the car
And had not found the farmers market

If we had found the farmers market
And had not bought fresh ahi tuna, avocado and mangoes

If we had bought fresh ahi, avocado and mangoes at the farmers market
And had not cooked it together, all of us chopping and marinating and setting the table

If we had cooked the yummy dinner together, all of us helping
And had not taken a good hot bubbling bath

If we had taken a hot bath to soak our sore hiker legs
And had not had soft beds to sleep in

If we had soft beds to sleep in
And not had kisses on our foreheads

Thank you, thank you and thank you
For this day. 

Now...write your own Dayenu poem. 

And remember to enter our new book giveaway!  Before entering, be sure to first read our Giveaway Guidelines here.

If you'd like a chance to win an autographed copy of the anthology Ladybug, Ladybug and Other Favorite Poems, post a comment to today's blog post telling us why you'd like to win the book. Also, we'd love to know if you're doing anything special to celebrate National Poetry Month. And please, don't forget to provide your email address or a link to your own blog in your comment so that we can contact you. (U.S. residents only, please.)  Entries must be posted by 11 p.m.(Central Standard Time) Wednesday, April 14, 2010. The winner will be announced on April 15.

We look forward to reading your comments.  And remember to write with joy.  (or at least to hope it lowers your blood pressure!)

poem and drawings © by April Halprin Wayland 2010 all rights reserved


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing both your process and your poetry with us, April. Very inspiring!

Louann Brown said...

I plan to read poems from Deborah Ruddell's, Lunch at the Bluebird Cafe, at our library's "Tweet and Twitter" story time for 3 to 8 year olds this April. What a lovely way to welcome Spring!

Thank you for your wonderful site!
I look forward to your posts.

Louann Brown said...

OOPS! Deborah's book is titled, "TODAY at the Bluebird Cafe, a branchful of birds" sorry.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

I admire your poems and your courage, April! I considered joining the poem-a-day challenge, but the thought of posting something without enough time to write several drafts scares the heck out of me! (Maybe next year!) I have found myself working on more new poems this month, though, & I plan to post one next Friday--after I have the luxury of revising it a few more times.

Good luck with your poems and posting, and thank you for the Dayenu poem format--I'll give it a try. I'm grateful for your example!


Mary Jo said...

Amazing post, April. Your struggle, your community, the quote from Grafton and mostly, your Dayenu poem.
Exactly what I needed to read today as my writing finger hovers above "pause."
Thank you!
Mary Jo

Marjorie said...

I've really enjoyed coming back today and reading your post again after a very busy Poetry Friday roundup yesterday. I can only say that your agonising is definitely worth it - and I love your artwork too. Thank you!

gteamhj said...

Loved your real, live birthday poem today, dear April. Oh, those Feather River days on rafts. "...little gnats softened the look of the sky," - what a great way to see it. Like your comment that the line at the TSA at airports is so exciting because they're going to teach us to fly! Happy happy birthday.