I am bad at many many nouns and verbs, as well as a handful of adjectives and even a smattering of adverbs. The less said about my prowess with certain prepositions, the better. I am bad at waking up, I am bad at friends. I am bad at losing games involving words and I am bad at dainty.
Also, and lately crucially, I am bad at raising money.
This is not new. I never once sold the most cookies and as a waitress refused to push the up-sell. “You want to upgrade to table-side guacamole? It’s a lot more expensive and a pain in the ass for me. No? Cool.” I don’t like asking for things, not because I fear the rejection, but because I don’t like putting other people in that position. I don’t want to be a bother. I’ve never volunteered to go door-to-door for a political campaign because that sounds like the boot camp they have in hell.
So, because I’m writing a poem a day for June as part of Tupelo Press’ 30/30 fundraiser, this blog will address the process of creating ART and asking for money.
First the latter.
I am amending my offerings for donations (see not being good at things for why). Should you go to Tupelo’s 30/30 page and donate in my name, you can lay claim to the amazing prizes:
$10: Give me three words that I have to use in a poem
$15: Five words
$20: Seven words
What if you give more? See my previous blog. I’m adding these lower-dollar prizes because as someone who is both financially strapped and super cheap, I appreciate a bargain. So here it is, your poetic blue light special for June. (If you do donate–thank you–and go ahead and drop me an email or Facebook message, as I will only receive weekly donor reports and want to stay on top of my poetry-for-hire business.)
Now the former.
Finding time and mental energy to write a poem every day has been absolutely brain-bendingly difficult, and yet I’m almost finding a rhythm. The first day of the program was also only my second day teaching two online 8-wk composition courses (which present the work of a full semester in half the time). It was also a day when my son was at home with me, so here is a sample scene of me trying to write that day:
[Child plays in other room. Poet stares meaningfully out the window. Begins to type a few brilliant phrases.]
Child: Mama, I have to show you something really important.
Poet: Okay, hon. Can it wait a minute?
Child: No! Mama! Really! You have to come over here now! Now!
[Poet goes with child to what can only be an emergency.]
Child: See? I put Captain America in my water but he can’t swim so now he’s dead!
Poet: Well that’s something. Remember what we said about mama needing to work so you could have some play time? Let’s do that, okay?
Child: Okay mama!
[37 seconds later]
Child: Mama! I put something weird in my pants!
[Repeat 18 times]
Most days, I would have given in and parented my child, but not this month! (Did you know June is National Benign Neglect Month?) Instead, lots of people have pitched in for an hour or two the past six days, allowing me enough time to write some mediocre poems that, instead of cloistering in a Word document, I have sent out into the world of poetry for dozens of people to shrug at.
The great thing about the project so far is that I feel free to write outside of many of my usual syntactical and line choices (my voice is my voice and immutable–even if I had to write a menu it would sound sarcastic and a little sad). Of course, there’s no way most of these attempts can be successful on a first go, but every one so far is born from a process that is both thoughtful and, because of the time constraints, economized.
Like most of the others writing this month, I’m working a day ahead, beginning a bit for the next day’s poem, going back to it in the afternoon if I can, then shaping it up and finishing it in the morning before sending out. I won’t be able to maintain this during the school year, but it does lend legitimacy to what I do. The idea of a poetry deadline is sort of hilarious to me–I keep imagining an old-timey newspaper editor chomping a cigar and yelling at me: Hodges! I need six stanzas examining the nature of human truth by 3! And put some goddamn flowers in there!
I was going to talk about some of the process behind each poem, but who do I think I am? Snooze. Also, the poems won’t be up on the site past July, so until maybe three of the thirty get published, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Sure, I could post them here, but why milk the cow if you’re gonna marry the barn, you know?
But needing to produce something fairly complete each day has forced me out of my normal practice of writing until I’m stuck and then walking away. For me, writing a poem is both crafting a puzzle and solving it at the same time. After trying several options that don’t, I’ll take a break, coming back to it only if the language or energy was particularly interesting to me. And in a way, I’ve done that this week in that every day I’ve written seeds of 1-3 pieces that I abandoned, the difference being is that I would normally be okay with that writing day as clearing cobwebs and not keep pushing. But now I’ve had to keep creating new openings until one felt like it could lead somewhere.
Lastly, while working on poem 7 (a piece called “No Fences” about my sad neighbor’s sad house and yard and how it’s so cliche it sounds made up), a thunderstorm yanked his 40-foot tall pine tree out by the roots and into the street. He wasn’t there, so when he came home we talked about his crappy luck: he’s caring for his sister’s mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, his VCR repair shop went bust, and now this. “Sometimes I look to the sky, and I ask God, why me?” he said. “And God said, ‘Tony, there’s just something about you that pisses me off.'” Sure, me writing about his property and then something crappy happening to said property could be seen as coincidence. But probably it is that I am a witch whose powers only reveal themselves in middle age.
Anyway–please donate to poetry! If not, I fear I shall have to write a poem about you….muhahahaha.