This past Saturday I attended a poetry workshop, here in town, conducted by Lynda La Rocca (Spiral, Liquid Light Press, 2012). During her introductory comments, she mentioned that writing poetry takes time; that it befuddles her every time someone shows offers up, “this poem I wrote on the way to this workshop/gathering/whatever.” Lynda also mentioned a fairly renown and respected Colorado poet who posts a poem each day on their website. She admitted to this poet’s caliber and ability both being high, yet she still seemed a bit put off by the whole poem-a-day notion.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Write A Novel In A Year was in vogue. (And there is that smart-ass brat TC Boyle, who pretty much has been doing exactly this for quite some time—all the while having his short stories appearing regularly in The New Yorker, and teaching at University of Southern California.) And there’s that beloved writing bon mot: First thought, best thought. Too, how many of us have spent too much time on a piece, polishing and perfecting all the coursing vibrant life out of it?
Which way does it generally tend to be: hot off the press, or taking the time to allow the writing to come fully into its own? It’s my belief that, like so much (too much?) of life, it’s a case of, “all the above.”
I do belong to the group of writers who espouse the writing is best served when it’s done every day. And I think one of the benefits of this daily coming to your craft is the ability to quickly, sometimes immediately, hit paydirt, to sink below the superficial surface and be writing rich, mucky, fecund stuff. James Michener said he was a far better reviser than writer; but when the first draft that’s laid down is within sight of the final product, it make the revising and editing that much easier, simpler, and more effective.
You see, don’t you, how I’m saying it’s both? That the daily stuff, once you’ve been at it for awhile, can often arrive nearly fully-formed, but there’s still the finalizing of it that needs to be done.
I kinda-sorta know the poet Lynda mentioned, fairly well. I suspect that she doesn’t see her daily poems as truly finished. Producing 300+ poems a year, I’m also sure a good number of them, surely the majority of them, are indeed left alone as they are; however, I’m at least as certain she takes no small number of them and continues working on them. Letting them sit awhile, returning from time to time to continue working and playing with them. It’s not at all uncommon for her to make changes, based on comments she receives.
So, yes, she “publishes” a poem each day. But she’s still hasn’t “finished” all of them yet.