Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poem a Day and South Bend

Today I’m on the 50th day of a poem-a-day project, and I’m finding it’s overcome my imagination. My goal was to get to 60 next Saturday in New York City, but right now I can’t imagine ever stopping. It’s a kind of mania I’m finding I love feeding.

Eleven days ago, two others here in Maryville, Carling Futvoye and Jason Pratt, began a poem-a-day project as well (without knowing I was also doing it), and they are also finding it quite, what’s the word? Fun? Or something? I don’t know, they haven’t said much to me about it.

Also, I remember Matthew Torburn once wrote something about doing a poem-a-day project a few months back? Do all poets do this a some point? I did the same thing a year-and-a-half ago and went for 60 days then, as well. Do you have a poem-a-day story? I’m curious. Tell me.

Last night I looked over my document, and it felt like looking at sediment in drill ice. I can feel the way my daily project went into and out of what I was reading and experiencing, through little groups of poems. Like looking at studies for paintings. What a pleasant way to be crazy, I thought.

I was worried this last weekend that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, as I was visiting South Bend, and I’ve begun to lean very heavily on my workspace here. I actually found, though, that the trip made me even more productive. I was able to steep in their hospitality and positive energy, everything from putting me up in the Bronte room of a local Bed & Breakfast, to one of those kitchen conversations I so enjoy (you know the kind, where we talk about writers we admire, and jobs and experiences, and where I get to work in a Neil Young reference).

While there, I picked up the university journal, Analecta, which was impressive. As were the editors. Special thanks to Neil Kelly for hosting the party after the reading.

And then on Sunday, I had the opportunity to spend several hours kicking around South Bend with David Dodd Lee. If you ever get the chance to kick around South Bend with David Dodd Lee, I suggest you go for it.

I got bumped off my flight that night, but it ended up just fine, as I got to spend more time in a hotel and further airports, both of which I rather adore. I made it quite a bit of the way through the new Ashbery book, as well as David Berman’s Actual Air, which David Dodd Lee suggested I get, and I’m glad he did.

So now I’m back in Maryville, much the richer for it. “It” meaning a generalized, referring to the whole thing kind of it.

What next? Oberlin, then Cleveland again, and then off to New York City with C. Dale Young. I’m greatly looking forward.


At 4/25/2007 11:04 AM, Blogger Talia said...

We are really glad you came, and your interview in the "Analecta" made it all the more impressive. Of all the poems you read Saturday night the one about South Bend was my favorite. I remember a few years back when Gerald Stern came for our Wolfson Awards and he had made some comment about South Bend being like a city "with a few teeth" missing and I couldn't help but wonder if he was beginning a new poem, there.

I have never attempted the poem-a-day thing. I don't think its for me. If I were to do anything, which maybe with the semester over now, I should try something of the sort, simply writing every day, or reading poetry every day would benefit me better I think. If I were forced to write something that I could call a "poem" I'm afraid I would end up with a lot of crappy poems.

At 4/25/2007 2:28 PM, Blogger Oliver de la Paz said...

I attempted a poem a day in August. It was great for kick-starting my writing at a point when I felt I needed the extra help. Basically I gave myself assignments, some of which are archived in my blog.

I did, of course, produce lots of crappy poems, but out of the 31 days of writing, I think 15 poems were salvageable. The rest of the pieces got cannibalized into other work.

Heck, if it's working for you, keep it up!

At 4/25/2007 3:40 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Talia and Oliver,

Yes, I think crappy poems are part of the goal, really. The idea of "finished" work kind of goes out the window . . . and a gesture kind of rises. I don't know, I'm so in the thick of it, I don't know if I can even talk normally.

But I like the thought of even getting pieces of things that might at a later date become something else . . . the raw materials, or somesuch.

But, I've now seen Jason's and Carling's eleven poems each, and I'm impressed as all get out by what they've been able to do so fast.

I enjoyed that interview. Vince asked wonderful questions, which got me to thinking about old things through new slants. Does Analecta have any of its content online? I showed my copy to the editor of the journal here, and she was impressed. You did a great job with it.

At 4/25/2007 6:38 PM, Blogger Talia said...

We have some old "archives" online. That was my lack of being able to find a student who was willing to do a website for me for free, as it is not my "thing." But I have the whole Analecta saved on my jump drive and am planning on handing it over to next year's editor (which will likely be Vince) and hopefully the website can move onto the next level.

At 4/25/2007 6:38 PM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

Hey John, looking forward to hearing you and C. Dale here in New York. I did indeed do the poem-a-day project all through 2003.

I had a similar experience to Oliver -- I got a surprising # of revise-able first drafts out of it and stray lines from the ones that wound up on the discard pile have found their way into other poems.

Speaking of airports -- which really are interesting places -- I had a pretty elaborate plan to write 26 poems (one for each letter of the alphabet) in flight during a trip home to Michigan last year. (Unfortunately I got sick a few days before and ended up dozing off for most of the flight....)

At 4/26/2007 10:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I think Paul Guest was going to something similar with airports this year. I saw a couple on his blog.

I like projects. I'm still going . . . only eight days left.

I'm taking the train in from Cleveland to Penn Station next Friday. Eleven hours. If I can't get a poem out of that, then I don't deserve to finish the project.


Which reading are you going to? We should get a drink of something afterward.

At 4/30/2007 6:03 PM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

Hey John, that sounds good. I'll be at the Bowery Poetry Club reading. See and hear you then!

At 8/04/2007 2:42 PM, Blogger Neil Kelly said...

Hey, John, what's up? I was glad to have hosted the little party for everyone. I know this is a few months later, but I was reading through your blog and saw this and thought I'd say hello and thank you for being the judge for the Wolfson Awards. Next time you're in the Bend you should get a hold of David and we'll go out for some more fun on the town. If you've got some time here's my sites.



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