NaPoWriMo 2018 Day 1



Fresh from NaPoWriMo –

This year, as usual, we’ll be featuring a new participant each day. Today’s participant is Theobald Walrus, who, in addition to having a wonderful blog name, has a charmingly tricksy riddle poem, following our early-bird prompt!


This year, we’ll be featuring a mix of craft resources and interviews that we’ve conducted with poets who have new books out or forthcoming. Our first interview with with Lauren Russell, whose book, What’s Hanging on the Hush is just out from Ahsahta Press. Lauren’s work seamlessly blends pop culture, high culture, and personal accounts, leavened with flashes of dry wit. You can find a selection of poems from the book here, and you can read our mini-interview with her here. In the interview, you’ll find answers to questions on how Lauren got started writing poetry, the best (and worst) writing advice she’s received, and a generative, collaborative poetry exercise.

And last but not least, here is our (optional, as always) prompt for the day. It’s based off of Lauren Russell’s collaborative poetry exercise.

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that is based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure. It could be eating too many cookies, or bad movies, or the time you told your sister she could totally brush her teeth with soap. It’s up to you.

Happy writing!

I have come across this exercise in workshops. So I wanted to give my brain a chance to settle and strike out the first confessional box ideas. I wanted this deeper, riskier. A sense of peril. I flushed all initial thoughts away and sat down with pen and paper (well my trusty notebook) to make a list of possible explorations.

It took a long while to form an incredibly short list, I chose something that ties into what has been on my mind lately and a theme I have considered for a sequence of poems.

It took a couple of attempts to find a way into the poem and I ended up using the 5,7,5 (Haiku*) pattern through 4 stanzas.

*There is abundant theory on Haiku and it is widely acknowledged that this pattern is not a genuine Haiku, despite this it is the form taught in schools.

I usually leave a line or two in each poetry post, because of the short form used today this is hard.

I will leave you with the beginning…

‘A hole in my plan’


Last year I started following prompts from The Poetry School and later in the year had the pleasure of meeting Ali Lewis at Free Verse, The Poetry Book Fair in London.


The Poetry School – Day 1


Day 1: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. 

Today, I’d like you to write a poem that teaches the reader something. Whether it’s an obscure piece of trivia, a word in a new language, or an idea that will change the world, the only stipulation is that the reader should know more at the end than they did at the beginning.

Your example poem today – I always like to start with the master – is Michael Donaghy’s poem ‘Quorum’. 



I always read the example poem after I have written my Napo Poem. This one started with some brief research through ideas, a quick image search, followed by a search engine navigation of several webpages. Two ideas banked into word documents to work on later and dismissed as it wasn’t a truth I was teaching.

I am busy working on some commissioned poetry at the moment and decided that my teaching poem would link to that work. It may even strengthen or help evolve the pieces I am working on. My first avenue of thought got me deep into medical research that was too broad to fit to a prompt specific and my head began to panic. It was then that I decided to focus on the object of the commission rather than the subject. This concrete grounding helped me find the right way into the poem.

I then struggled to write anything of value. I know the whole point of NaPoWriMo is to get writing and keep writing, editing and quality control comes later. From the 99 poems I wrote last year (I followed 3x prompt programmes), 5 were good enough and some of those have since been published. However, there is badly written poetry and poetry which refuses to come out of the tube. This trail was leading to the latter.

So I started again, this time going with an obscure piece of trivia – as a starting point.

I instantly discovered January 4th is National Trivia Day (in the States) and found research more enjoyable. I have saved a list of obscure facts to use over time. But still felt uninspired.

Then I typed into Google and discovered the Doodle was John Harrison. I know if I had followed the prompt on the 1st April, it would have not been there. So this was a sign.

British clockmaker John Harrison (1693-1776), the man who built the first marine chronometer to measure longitude, was born 325 years ago today and is celebrated in the latest Google Doodle.

© The Independent

It may have taken the best part of a day but I have the scaffold of a poem about John and his Maritime miracle.

His Father admired grain in wood,

swirling waves of age.





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