Thursday, April 10, 2008

Poetry and Noveling

Image via About Shoes

I'm having so much fun with April Poem a Day that I thought I'd look into similar prods for the rest of the year. It turns out there is the wonderfully named NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. During November, while the rest of the world readies for Christmas (or whatever the rest of the world does in the 11th month) NaNoWriMoer's churn out a 175-page (50,000-word) draft of a novelette. (Only the NaNoWriMo website calls it a novel because, they say, novel is more impressive.)

Someone told me once that poets and novelists have different minds. I know I've always stood in awe of the feat of inventing characters. Also, my tendencies are all oriented towards cutting sentences apart and balancing out sounds. Not exactly the stuff of plot creation. However looking on novel-writing as some sort of amazing magic has only made me want it more. I've even got a thesis or plot as starters: "Girl goes to NYC and figures out life."

NaNoWriMoer's are forbidden from writing even one sentence of actual novel text before the clock strikes 1am on November the 1st. This leaves me 6 luxuriant months in which to do research, figure out life, sketch outlines and characters, listen for dialogue, read a ton of novels, and explore themes.

What does all this have to do with poetry? I've come up with a terrifically lame connection: Novel-writing should be a poetical pursuit. More seriously (but no less pompously) I think that attempting a novel will help me iron out some problems I have with poetry. I've always been shrinkingly ashamed of my inability to write more than 3 stanzas or so to a poem. This seems so half-hearted against volumes of Longfellow and Browning. Writing 175 pages of anything should help quench this inadequacy.

Also, the more I learn about poetry publication, the less excited I become about sending out my little limping and half-finished thoughts. If by any chance they measured up at all, the pinnacle they could attain would be to languish between the dull inexpensive covers of some journal purchased only by libraries and read only by other poets. I've been thinking I'd like to write a series of poems oriented along a single subject-matter. Two ideas are Girl in Pink Shoes (i.e. fashion) or Poems to America (with Generation Y focus). Again, exploring themes through prose and plot first would probably help.

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