One of the things I like to do when I am feeling stressed is write poetry. I have been sharing my poems and prose with Tom as part of Partners in Learning for a few months now, and I submit to Readable Zine every now and again.

I started taking part in NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month – in 2018. I was considering applying for a Masters in Creative Writing in Canterbury Christ Church University, and thought NaPoWriMo might be a good opportunity to practice writing in short bursts. I also found poetry useful for processing my ideas through the day; it was almost a challenge to identify key words and themes that come up in my thoughts.

I liked writing when I was young but I didn’t feel good. I had a best friend who wrote funny rhymes and I felt that was real poetry. My words were abstract and mopey. I stopped sharing.

When I write poetry I free write, like the Morning Pages. I don’t think about anything other than getting my thoughts on the page. Even if it’s awkward, uncomfortable, or sad. As I write words start to stick out to me, I use those words as a springboard into my next idea.

During my first NaPoWriMo I didn’t follow the prompts. I just wrote anything. Even if it was just three lines.

Force (dated 7 April 2018)

I struggled at first.

fountain pen writing on paper

Pushing out poetry
Is like forcing out a burp;
It hurts
… And nobody likes the result

Master (dated 4 April 2018)

I went to an open evening and I couldn’t decide if a Creative Writing degree was good for me. I kept reflecting on what I thought a good writer was, and whether I am a writer. I decided I am:

Applying for a Masters
Dancing with disaster
Why do I do it?
The need for validation
Literally

I am unwilling to call myself a writer
But I write
For me, for others, for money, for fun
A blog does not
Seem like proper writing

a working station with laptop, mug and book

But what is?
Typed prose
Handwritten love letters
Diaries by people cleverer than me
An academic journal that will offer new ideas

I blog about my hopes and fears
Sometimes lingerie and tea
Often insignificant lists of hyperlinks
Just to remind you I am
Right here, write hear

Teacup (dated 14 April 2018)

One of my favourite ways to deal with stress is write about an activity I enjoy. Just recalling it helps distract me from whatever is distressing me in that moment.

a teacup and saucer

A vessel of delight
Warm, small and in my hands
Everything stops
As I blow the steam
I watch the ripples
These few minutes
I am at peace
Lips touch the bliss
Frothy soy
Citrus kiss

The following year I used a few more of the prompts. But I still focussed on reflective writing and promised myself not to edit anything. I felt this type of writing useful for addressing my mental health.

Right Side (dated 6 April 2019)

“The saying about getting up on
The right side of the bed
Often made me wonder if there is
A right side of my head

What would that be like?
A day with less noise
Filtering out thoughts
Would I feel joy?

a cat laying on a messy bed

The truth is I cannot imagine
A time without struggle
Or a night without shrieks
Life outside my bubble

It’s impossible to picture
A serene version of me
Although I surround myself with peace
It’s something I cannot be

My fluctuating moods
Knock me off my feet
But they also make me feel alive
They are part of what make me complete”

Rimy (dated 10 April 2019)

And my feelings of homesickness.

white two storey house with a white picket fence

“The scientific reason is something like
Supercooled fog on a windward-facing stone
But, who cares, I’m home”

At the end of the month, I’d reread my poems and note recurring themes. I had written lots of bad poems, but I was proud of a couple. There were also some that completely cracked me up.

Feeling poop (dated 12 April 2020)

An exhausted male covered in post it notes - in front of a wall covered in post it notes

“I’m a poop emoji
I don’t know what I’m doing
A study in dialectology
I’m a poop emoji
As melodic as a hoagy
Aggressively chewing
I’m a poop emoji
I don’t know what I’m doing”

I’ve come to look forward to NaPoWriMo as it’s an opportunity for me to write for fun. In the past I was always so critical of my writing… thinking it was self-indulgent or pretentious. Or that my grammar, spelling or writing style was bad. But now I just write for myself.

If you feel like taking part this April, check out NaPoWriMo.net

References and Sources

Canterbury Christ Church University (2020) Partners in Learning. Available at: https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/partnersinlearning/ (Accessed: 2021).

Julia Cameron Live (2021) The Artist’s Way morning pages. Available at: https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/ (Accessed: 2021).

NaPoWriMo (2013/2021) 30 poems in 30 days. Available at: https://www.napowrimo.net/ (Accessed: 2021).

Readable (2019/2021) Readable a literary zine. Available at: https://www.readable.org.uk/ (Accessed: 2021).