Tim Clare is a dab hand at this, having participated in the challenge for the last five years. In the past I’ve always looked on in awe at he and other poets churning out dozens of poems in the time it’d take me to brew a cup of tea. I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to volunteer this year: it was partly my high temperature at the time, partly the fact that I was going through a writer’s block stage, and partly because it seemed like a perfect way for me to raise money for Refuge (marathons have never been my forte).
Fortunately, I think I can now safely stick my tongue out at writer’s block thanks to my now having 100 new poems to work on. I am also thrilled that the challenge raised £615 for Refuge (via my JustGiving page), which is six times more than my original target (I wasn’t the only one to fundraise with this 100 poem challenge, Agnes Davis raised an impressive amount for the Philippines).
In case anyone thinks of taking part in a similar challenge, here are my thoughts on what worked and what didn’t:
- Having a kettle in my room (with tea, Cup-a-Soup, etc). It stopped me from wasting time in the kitchen…
- Breaks! I hosted a Q&A with Pascale Petit for an hour at lunch, which was a brilliant thing to do as I felt much more refreshed, and the discussion inspired a poem too. Then later, I rewarded myself for getting into the 70s with an Indian takeaway and the latest episode of Project Runway, which again inspired a poem (as well as sorted out the distracting hunger pangs).
- Getting up earlier than I said I would and not telling anyone what I was doing/keeping away from social media until the first ten were sorted.
- Staying on social media for the next 90 poems was also a good move as it kept me motivated. It was hard to stop myself from interacting however…
- God bless Oulipo for giving me quick techniques for generating poems.
- Asking for titles on the day was great, as it sparked an immediate reaction. I particularly enjoyed reacting to the suggestion ‘Go on, say something in French’ (a reference to a slightly awkward episode in my life).
What didn’t work:
- My organization. I forgot to add all the titles to the spreadsheet and should have made a folder full of images. I should have also done the obvious thing and gone on the Verse Kraken tumblr for inspiration, especially for the painful last ten poems…
- I DID FEEL LIKE I HAD SPENT THE WHOLE DAY IN ALL CAPS.
- Predictably, not everything suggested to me inspired me, although I really wish they had. Some of it was due to repetition: I was sent quite a few images of seascapes for instance, which I struggled with after the first few. Some titles didn’t spark inspiration fast enough, others demanded research I didn’t have time to achieve. I shouldn’t have beaten myself up over the fact that I couldn’t create a poem based on all suggestions.
Would I do it again? Well, I have to admit it was wonderful spending all day writing poems, rather than getting distracted by my to-do list. I feel strangely cleansed by it, alert to new poems; it’s a great sensation. There’s actually quite a few that I do really feel happy to have produced and would love to start editing. My poetry output is usually very slow: I’ve essentially been working on the same poem for three months, with the occasional throwaway ones, so it feels really satisfying to know that I now have a nest of poems to build on.
I’m undecided about what to do about these poems. There are some themed ones involving mock-translation/mock-academia (such as this one, or this one, or this one) that could make for a cute pamphlet. Obviously, if I want to publish any of these in magazines, I should take them off the internet and redraft them. Any thoughts?
To finish, I’ll leave you with poem number 19, a fourth variation on the dissolution of a biscuit base, which I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s a loose Homosyntactical Translation of the BBC Good Food’s instructions on how to make a biscuit base, mixed with the introduction to Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. There’s something a bit Kim Kierkegaard about the result I think…
I N I T I A L S T O Q U E S T I O N
by CLAIRE TRÉVIEN
- Put the usage into a word and crush with a multiplicity of concurrent meanings. Stir through the origins evenly.
- Alternatively, use historical phrases to pulse the conditions to a bourgeois society, pour in the industrially advanced and combine social-welfare state.
- Pour the clouded amalgam into inherited language and smooth around with the back of a word. You can use ordinary language to press in the imprint and get an even bureaucratic and mass media jargon.
- Refrigerate for at least half an hour to set the sciences before removing from the traditional categories.
- Release the public from the private by balancing it on public opinion and easing down the precise terms. You can now add your accessibility. Chill again, if necessary, and serve.
Read all of Claire’s poems on her 100 poems project blog: http://thetrev.wordpress.com/
Claire Trévien is the Anglo-Breton author of the pamphlet Low-Tide Lottery (Salt), and The Shipwrecked House (Penned in the Margins), which is longlisted in this year’s Guardian First Book Award. Her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including the Forward Book of Poetry 2014 and Best British Poetry 2012. She edits Sabotage Reviews, co-edits Verse Kraken, and co-organizes Penning Perfumes.