So for the last few years, me and Jon have held our hand in the boiling beaker of NaPoWriMo. For the uninitiated, April takes a tithe of one poem per day from you. The troublesome younger sibling of NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in a month), NaPo is both a torment and a godsend. Many people have attempted variants on the formula – some have written a poem a minute for 30 minutes, some do a poem a weekend indefinitely, but NaPo remains for me a challenging, yet sustainable, stretch. I don’t think I’d be half as profilic without this month each year, and it often throws up surprises, sending you in new directions and sparking off fresh ideas for sequences, styles and themes to explore.
This year is a little more structured than the chaos that usually ensues. We’re writing towards a collaborative pamphlet in aid of the Tropical Zoo, West London. This amazing place hosts a range of rescued exotic animals, many of which are allowed to roam freely through the building. Sadly, they’re being kicked out of their home in September and need to raise funds to move into a new place, or the animals are at risk of being put down. With this in mind, we’re aiming to write a sonnet (or variation on) for every animal at the zoo, and the resulting booklet will be given to the zoo to sell, hopefully to raise some money for a great cause.
Since we want to get the pamphlet written and out as quickly as possible, what better tool to use than NaPo? Fast and frenetic, the demands of the month will spur us on to completing the full set in good time. If you’re considering the task, do it! It’s not too late to catch up (we always end up three or so poems behind at some point anyway) and you’ll have a lot of fun.
To finish with, a few tips for surviving NaPo:
- Post on a forum – that way not only do you get encouraging feedback from fellow pilgrims, you get to see what everyone else is up to over the month. Currently I’m on the poetry free-for-all forum, but they stop people starting new NaPo threads after midnight on 1 April, so unless you’re already on, just read and comment for now, or pop back next year.
- Don’t expect every poem to be great. There will be duffers – anything you can salvage makes the month worthwhile. Think of it like taking the car for a drive not to win the rally, but simply to keep the engine in good nick. Perhaps you’ll find something cool en route.
- Sequences can prove helpful if inspiration is running a bit dry. If you have an idea for a run of themed poems, use NaPo to explore this.
- Fentiman’s ginger beer and lots of it.
- If you fall behind, don’t panic. Last year we were scrawling multiple pieces up until the nail. It’s part of the fun, and desperate times often produce innovative results. Have fun!
Kirsten Irving was born in Louth, Lincolnshire, grew up next to a field and has now moved to Whitechapel, London following completion of a degree in American Literature and Creative Writing at UEA in Norwich. After serving on the board of editors for the Tulane Review during a year abroad in New Orleans, she decided to start a small literary journal, the contents of which would be generated by a ‘spur word’. She put together the first issue of Fuselit, ‘Demo’, in October 2005, and sold it from a stall on the university campus for 50p. She still edits it to this day, although it has grown in ambition since then and now includes a CD and additional booklet with every issue.
While Fuselit occupies a lot of her free time, she is also regularly invited to perform her own poetry in London, has been published in a wide variety of magazines and websites, and has recently joined Jon Stone in the Sidekick Books venture, gathering together and publishing small, illustrated multi-poet anthologies. She has co-run a number of poetry nights, including launches for Fuselit, and regularly reports on unusual literary goings-on via the online journal Cut Out & Keep.
Her interests come in evangelistic bursts – she will regularly have an entire week of singing skater Johnny Weir’s praises, before embarking the following week on an in-depth investigation of the life and loves of Nathaniel Hawthorne. More often than not, all roads lead to Shakira. Her poetry emerges in a similar way – conceived, written and edited in one short burst of inspiration. As a result, it’s often quite compulsive and takes the form of a colourful, fast-paced reaction to something experienced or read. This reading matter ranges from short hagiographies to 1950s texts on perversion to the doomed adventures of Wile E Coyote.