Fifty-two sessions of the Installment Plan Poetry Marathon have come and gone in 2017. I thought I’d investigate some statistics, just from my own curiosity, as I think about what I want to do in 2018.
I figure I spent about 5 hours in each session, roughly – 260 hours total. This number doesn’t include any time I spent making notes or thinking poetry thoughts on other days, nor any of the time it takes to make up a print book manuscript. Just the writing, on Marathon days.
In this time, I wrote a lot of poems. How many? It’s hard to say. You see, I keep a listing of each poem I write (I started doing it so that I didn’t duplicate titles and well, because I just like lists). It has become essential for me to keep records, though, if I want to keep track of my poetry books, what’s in each one, and where to find a poem.
Anyway, according to the listings of the four books I did in 2017 (three published: Refuge, Repairs, and Redirection, with #4, still unnamed, to come out in early 2018) I have 525 entries.
But that is not the whole story. I maintained these lists by date, it being important to me that the books portray the order in which I wrote the poems. In April, I started doing the Little Vines; each week saw about 15-20 of these tiny poems emerge. On my listing, I mention them as a group – Little Vines 33-54, let’s say. As of the end of 2017, I’m up to 530 in the overall list.
Subtract the group entries, 35 or so, and add back the total number of Little Vines, and I end up with about 1000 poems done this year.
Well, my goodness. I have to sit back and take that number in. It seems incredible, absurd almost, that I have written that many poems. I had no idea (honest, I mean it) until I added things up that this much work had been done in those weekly sessions.
As I think about it, I see that I have never stepped back to think over the whole experience: instead I have focused week by week. Each session I concentrate only on what is before me. I am immersed in the weather that very day, the drive to the library, the season, what the students around me are doing, what shoes I am wearing, what I ate for breakfast. I am not connecting today’s work with all the other days – I’m just here to write, here in the present. I make a conscious effort to leave the flow of everyday life behind and just – write.
The first thing I thought after coming up with these figures was: There are so many. Too many? Are any of these poems any good?
And the next two things I thought: How would I know? and Does it matter?
For question number one, I did not keep a poem that I was not happy about, that didn’t feel “right”. So, I’ll say that to me, they are all good poems. I said what I wanted to say the best way I could at the time. Although of course I think I hit the mark a lot closer in some poems than in others: Some I’m really proud of – others are less satisfying, and all the rest are in the middle. I don’t think that quantity automatically means low quality.
For question number two, I have no idea at all if my work is any good and I’ll tell you that right up front. I don’t even know what “good” is beyond satisfying myself. I hope people will like reading them, and if they do, maybe that is “good”, in that larger sense. I don’t have any illusions that I’m any kind of standout fish in the ocean of literature, certainly. That’s fine, too.
For question number three, it doesn’t matter if any of them are any “good”. I like writing poems. I enjoy the whole poetry-writing experience and I love doing the Marathon day each week. I do feel very grateful there is a blog world in which to share the poems and I appreciate every reader and every comment – I am so encouraged when it seems someone understands what I am saying. Poetry-writing is an exploration of belonging, I think – a way to make sense of this world and my place in it.
Having said all of this I do think quantity means something, and that is – practice. I like to exercise, and practice is what it is all about. In running you have to put in the miles. In pickleball you have to play the games. To participate in the body combat class, you have to repeat the moves. In swimming you have to go up and down the pool. Practice.
Mail art postcard, July 2016.
So, the sheer number of poems written and hours put in do add up to something that is good. I practiced writing poetry. I do think the repetition has helped me gain skill. I feel more confident and fluid in my writing, and that is from – writing.
What is the point of this discussion? I had planned to use this analysis as a way to decide on how to continue poetry-writing in the next year. But I see that I don’t really need to make plans. I am on a good path now. If changes need to be made as I go on, it will be made clear to me, I feel. Until then, I think I’ll just keep working.
I do think 2018 deserves its own Marathon name. I’ve been trying to come up with something. Pretend we’re traveling along in the middle of next year and you open a post – could you face
The Great Big Poetry Pie Slice #23?
Paid as You Go Poetry #44?
All Over the Place Poetry #35?
Spewed Out Syllables Session #28?
Long-Drawn-Out Poetry Marathon Milepost #41? (I’m kind of liking this last one…hmmm. Tongue in cheek, yet very descriptive of the concept of – putting one foot in front of another, one word added to another…)
Thank you to everyone who follows me and who reads my work. I can’t express how good it makes me feel to have companions on my journey.