By Maison Horton
Welcome to April, writers! The month of spring showers brings with it a chance to nourish our own writing. That’s because April is National Poetry Month and, consequently, National Poetry Writing Month (often abbreviated as NaPoWriMo). The idea is simple: thirty poems for thirty days. To honor National Poetry Month, poets across the country are challenged to let go of their inhibitions and just write for thirty consecutive days. Such concentration during a one-month period has the potential to take our writing into territory never explored. In this blog post, we’ll talk a little bit more about the NaPoWriMo event, as well as some reasons why you should consider participating this year.
In 1996, The Academy of American Poets established the first National Poetry Month to be celebrated every April. The Academy’s website lists the goals of national observance, and those goals were to:
- highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets,
- encourage the reading of poems,
- assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms,
- increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media,
- encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and
- encourage support for poets and poetry.
With these ideas in mind, it makes sense that a poet would seek to honor National Poetry Month by writing poems. Poet Maureen Thorson had that exact spirit when she started the poem-a-day event for the month of April. According to napowrimo.net, what began as a project by Thorson eventually inspired other poets to follow suit:
“This website is owned and operated by Maureen Thorson, a poet living in Washington, DC. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, she started writing a poem a day for the month of April back in 2003, posting the poems on her blog. When other people started writing poems for April, and posting them on their own blogs, Maureen linked to them. After a few years, so many people were doing NaPoWriMo that Maureen decided to launch an independent website for the project.”
The event site’s “About” page also mentions, “But this site isn’t meant to be ‘official,’ or to indicate ownership or authority over the idea of writing 30 poems in April.” Essentially, NaPoWriMo is purely for the joy of writing poetry and sharing that joy with like-minded poets. The event also gives poets a way to actively participate in the observance of National Poetry Month that is also personal.
The expansion of social media has only extended NaPoWriMo’s reach. These days, a poet can find a wealth of resources to inform and inspire their poetic endeavors. There are numerous websites and blogs (Tumblr is one platform that comes to mind) that provide writing prompts for each day in April, prompts that often cater to a writer’s needs and goals.
Participation is Key to Growth
So, why participate in NaPoWriMo? What can a poet (or essayist, novelist, screenwriter, etc.) gain from writing a poem-a-day for thirty days? Below are some reasons to consider taking part in the fun this April:
- Flexibility. Beyond writing one poem per day, there are no rules! There are infinite ways to move forward with your writing goals for the month. It’s possible to borrow the rules from NaNoWriMo and meet a word count each day. Perhaps you want to work on existing poems instead of composing new ones. Maybe you’re the rebellious type—so instead, you’re thinking of working on that memoir manuscript. The main idea is to find a writing goal and to stick to it, as long as that goal gets you writing.
- Discovery. New and fresh ideas will arise, especially if writers choose to create brand new poems this April. I can speak to this method from personal experience. Last year I participated in NaPoWriMo, and I generated so much surprising material. I let my inner critic take a seat for the entire month. After April ended, I went back to my poems and underlined (and later, compiled) any threads—words, phrases, even whole lines—I thought had potential. NaPoWriMo is a chance to let the gems from your subconscious mind float to the surface and onto the page.
- Adventure. NaPoWriMo isn’t just for poets. Writers of all disciplines can benefit from experimenting with poetry, as poetry is one method that can help us practice creating compelling images through metaphor, simile, etc. If you’ve been avoiding writing a stanza or two, there’s never been a better time to get started on a new project!
- Community. In addition to providing writing prompts, many writing blogs accept and post NaPoWriMo submissions on their webpages. Inspiration abounds; know that by participating in NaPoWriMo, you’re not alone! The community surrounding the event is supportive and always encouraging. Having such a wide collection of artists engaging in the same event makes NaPoWriMo satisfying year after year.