Don Rearden: The Poem-A-Day Challenge for April, and Beyond

Don Rearden

When the cruelest month rolls around each year I step out from my office at UAA
and throw the poetic gauntlet down the hall to my buddy and colleague,
Professor Shannon Gramse.  Shannon is a
cross-country skier extraordinaire, gifted teacher, and Co-Editor of the
journal Ice-Floe.
He is also a poet. My bold challenge to him has always been for each of us to
write a poem a day for April, National Poetry month. At the end of the
challenge the loser — yours truly —buys lunch and we go over the best poems
of the batch and discuss them.

Here’s where I admit to you my darkest secret. Please don’t
tell him. I’m actually the winner. Not only do I get the practice of penning
several dozen poems, but I get to an inside glimpse at some real poetry. The
work of someone who studies poetry, thinks poetry, and is both a student and
master of the craft. Me? I’m actually not a poet. I’m also not a novelist. Or a
memoirist. Or screenwriter. Or short story-ist. Growing up where I did in
southwestern Alaska, no one told
me I needed to pick one mode and master it. So I didn’t. I went with a duct
tape approach to writing and found myself and my writing adhering to a little
of this and that. For me the character, stories, or ideas find the form
themselves. Still, each April slips like melting dogshit beneath the Xtratuf
and I am drawn to poetry, and secretly hope I can talk Shannon
into sharing a month’s worth of work with me. 
This year something struck me, perhaps the fall and
subsequent head trauma after slipping on said dog-doo, and I decided I would
not only write a poem every day for the entire month, but I would share them.
Not just share them with my pal Shannon or maybe my mom, but the world (or at
least the on-line world, the rather small world who frequents blogs and/or
actually reads web published poetry.).  At best, a few people would read
the poems, right? At worst, I’d only write a couple and fail publicly, or worse
yet people would actually read the poems and then know that stuff I say about
me not being a poet is true.

Do I dare? Do I dare? I asked myself, throwing Prufrock out with the tea and
I dared.
The results were not at all what I expected, nor would I
anticipate the responses from readers around the world.

Each day I wrote a poem and posted it to my blog, usually
accompanying the poem with some sort of photo. The poems were inspired by my
day to day life. Thoughts during the day. Experiences with my son. Breaking
news. Concerns about humanity. The brilliance happening in Juneau
during the legislative session. You know. What ever struck me. What ever form
found its way on the page. There was simply no method to my madness. I often
wrote them on my iPhone while putting my son down for a nap, singing ABC’s at
the same time.  Later I might read the poem aloud to my dogs/son/moose in
window, edit on the fly, and share via social media. Facebook. Twitter. Google
Plus. (I know, I know, that’s ridiculous, but as an author with my first novel
finally being published in the US this June, after a few years and few
countries preceding the US pub date, I leave no social media form un-liked.)
Naturally friends and family were supportive. Some laughed.
Some cried. Many many Facebook likes were liked. Some begin to share the poems
with their friends. Those responses fueled me. People began to expect a poem by
mid-morning. I’d get requests or funny comments saying, “You’re late!
Where is my poem?” Things like that. 
Then a few teachers asked if they could reprint the poems
and share them with their class. KYUK, the public radio station in Bethel
where I grew up, took my poem “Seal Oil Salesman” and read it to
goofy circus music. [Click
to listen here.]
 News outlets shared several of the poems. People sent
countless private messages of thanks. In one month’s time I had over ten
thousand hits to my little infrequent and poorly designed blog.
I share all of this not to bolster my already fragile ego.
No. I’m sure that will be shattered when I sit down again with the real poet,
Shannon Gramse, and read his beautiful poems. I share this with you to toss the
poetic gauntlet your direction, and perhaps I won’t even limit it to poetry.
Let’s open the challenge to all forms. Write I say. Write and share some of
your work with your friends and the world. You don’t have to hoard all your
words for some future publication (or in my case save them to submit to journals
for rejection). Instead hit “share” and people will “like”
Don Rearden is not a
poet, or a novelist; in fact, he didn’t even write this. He’s testing out a new
APP that picks up his brain waves, sorts all three of them, and publishes blog posts while
writing poems, novels, screenplays, and book publicity. His debut novel comes out
again, the forth time, this June with Penguin US.

5 thoughts on “Don Rearden: The Poem-A-Day Challenge for April, and Beyond”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Awwww, that was so inspiring Don. You're the best! What an incredibly cool and brave thing to do. Thanks for sharing not only the months of poems but the report on the entire experience.

  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Month of poems, I meant to say. Sheesh, wasn't trying to pressure you to write poetry daily for MONTHS.

  3. Thanks, Andromeda. Next year. A novel a day. Or maybe the year after that…

  4. Lynn Lovegreen

    Awesome! I didn't read all the poems, but enough of them to know you really did it. You are inspiring. I'll think about your challenge….

  5. I read your blog essay at 5 am while slurping coffee and thinking about the writing I should be doing. But I'd rather read YOU! Loved to hear about your poetic self, and the "duct tape" approach to writing. Great piece, Don.

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