- Amara Amaryah
poetry | 1000 poems in a year challenge complete!
Amara Amaryah | travel + books + poetry. a platform for story-telling, visuals, positive self-talk and empowerment | 1000 poems in a year
mid-january 2019 i set myself a challenge to write 1000 poems in a year and fast forward to an evening at the end of April, i had written my thousandth poem. it took me just over a year but the fact is i have never written so much in a year before. there are a lot of poems that will never see the light of day and there were several days where i felt like 600 was enough, or 800 or 933. and that's okay. i'm glad i committed to it because i came out with so much and now, compas, i'm going to persuade you to do the same. in this post i'm going to share what i learnt from 1000 poems, how to approach the challenge and also why i think every poet should, in time, challenge themselves in this way.
4 notebooks later / 1000 poems ...
approaches to writing 1000 poems
firstly, it doesn't have to be 1000 poems. it can be less if you'd prefer. whatever it is, set your figure. once you've done that, figure out how many poems you will need to write per day to keep on track. for instance, for 1000 poems i figured i needed to write 3 poems a day. it is good to break it down to a daily target rather than a monthly target as it makes it easier to see if you're falling behind. i.e. i started by aiming for 100 poems a month and i wrote barely half of that in january and had to play catch-up.
this challenge works best if you're open to exploring new forms of poetry, new ways of writing, new poetic structures from around the world and so on and so on. don't limit yourself to what you already know about poetry. when you feel comfortable i would highly recommend exploring ways to invent your own poetic form(s).
(some of my favourites that might become your favourites include: cento form // specular form or mirror poem // hai bun // column poems // anything that plays with and manipulates the way we use grammar/punctuation)
reading more poetry and writing more poetry go hand in hand. with confidence i can say that i discovered new poets whose styles i admired and whose content/form sat closer to my new style. a tip: while you read collections, anthologies, journals - make a list of the forms/styles that you'd like to have a play with yourself. revisit that list on a monthly basis and check in on the progress you're making and the additions that you're keeping in mind.
what i learnt from writing 1000 poems
the very first thing i learnt was that i am more than able to write everyday, even when i don't feel like it. it is just up to me to make the decision and commit to writing something. even if i put pen to paper for 30 seconds, even that is valuable. within that 30 second poem, i might find something that i can come back to and work with.
in spring 2019, i was a part of the newly created hippodrome young poets cohort. i mentioned to Jacob Sam La-Rose (amazing mentor on the programme alongside the superstar Jasmine Gardosi) that i was writing 1000 poems in a year after briefly speaking to Joshua Judson (another fab poet) who had mentioned his experience with the challenge. Jacob mentioned that he had actually set Joshua the challenge and gave me some tips to help me along with it. here are some of those:
when you fall off, forgive yourself, then get back on.
remember to enjoy it. the more you see it as a slog, the more of a slog it'll be.
see oscar for prompts when you're empty.
challenge your notions of what a poem needs to be or do.
set yourself an attainable morning routine: e.g. a five line poem that defines a colour, or that captures the essence of how you felt or something you experienced yesterday. consider the same for the evening. in this way, poetry becomes a part of your daily being, as opposed to some special activity that you have to put time aside for.
possibly the most useful tip that Jacob gave me was that i should use this challenge to give myself space to explore what actually shapes my poems; experiment more than i ever have. there is no way that you can write 10000 poems about the exact same thing. this challenge allows you to see recurrent themes, poems that want to say the same thing and poems that are almost in conversation with each other. you'll notice a pattern in your writing which could ultimately and organically lead to a clear pamphlet or book theme (or two).
this challenge taught me about how i like to write. i always assumed that the night was my optimum time for poetic creativity. this challenge helped me to be less precious about when i write. it also taught me to experiment with the times and conditions that i write and edit in. it allows poetry to become more of a fluid part of my everyday existence and it removes the pressure of perfection within the process.
why i think every poet should accept the challenge
the poets that i know are probably tired of me talking about this. my discipleship has spread wide but it honestly is a game-changer in my eyes. my writing style changed - improved - massively thanks to this challenge. 2019 was a big year for me and my poetic journey and yes there were a lot of variables that contributed to my improvement (i.e. the Arvon retreat, HYP, international poetry set at cosmopoetica) but a main constant was the fact that i started to take poetry seriously because i was in the practice of it every day, making my way to poem 1000 intentionally.
i think the main and only reason that i took on the challenge was to level up. now that i've finished, i can say that another thing i've taken on is confidence to explain what kind of poet i am, who my favourite poets are, which my favourite forms are and i genuinely feel like i've spent some time learning about the kind of poems that i am capable of.
for instance, i will read every ghazal poem you give me however, i have been bullied into a corner whilst actually writing a ghazal and i therefore won't be writing another one for a while. or ever. maybe. in the year i've learnt that i love writing specular poems and also series poems, in fact my poems often come in threes. i had never before had exposure to any of these poetic forms and my 1000 poem challenge was my entry. and there is still more for me to explore.
once the challenge is complete …
it is easy to fear that you'll slump back and take it easy, but the reality is you've started a new habit. and you still have forms, poems and prompts that you want to try out. you have the opportunity to go back through your poems and 1. be entirely proud of yourself and 2. underline lines and phrases and start working on new poems. it is also important to rest and feel out what the other side feels like. the slow approach. i've found myself indulging in more time over one or two poems rather than working in several spaces like i previously was in the habit of doing.
i hope this was helpful. if you're looking for ways to take the next step in your poetry journey, start at whatever pace feels good. i started this challenge when i wasn't part of a poetry community or any collective and i know that can be difficult but it pushed me along until i reached the right place. hopefully the same intention will reach you too, whatever stage you're at. thanks for reading what i write.