april is for poets

April is National Poetry Writing Month in the US, now Global Poetry Writing Month! Prompts start April 1 (or April 2 for us in Aotearoa, since we’re in the future). It’s something I’ve done for a few years now. Here’s a little about how it works. 

What is NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo?

A month when you try to write a poem every day! Of course, that’s not what everyone does—I certainly try, but some people prefer to sit down and write a few every week in one sitting, or just one, or whatever they can manage. 

The prompts for GloPoWriMo come up every day on napowrimo.net. They tend to be more technical challenges, paired with a daily poem to draw inspiration or reflection from. There are a few other prompt lists/matching challenges that cater to different people, like Escapril (@letsescapril on Instagram). Escapril has its own hashtag and structure, and is more similar to Inktober in having one-word vibe-based prompts you can interpret however you want. I often mix and match the prompts or just ignore them entirely, just as long as I get a poem out!

Why write a poem every day?

In short, poets deserve to suffer just as much as visual artists or novelists do with Inktober or NaNoWriMo. This is our month to be strung out, show off online, and make our best work.

Inktober and Hourly Comic Day are communal challenges designed to help artists get some practice in. GloPoWriMo is much the same. The structure and social nature of the challenge allows people to hold each other accountable! Most of the poems I write every April are five-minute poems, while others take an hour or so as I work out the tricky parts of a particularly interesting structural prompt. 

A huge number of the poems I’ve had published are edited poems from the most recent April! The speed of the challenge, and the poetic fluency I acquire after doing it every day for a few weeks, really helps uncover some hidden gems I would never have otherwise thought to write. If you’re after a technical challenge or discovering new things about poetry, the GloPoWriMo challenge is a great way to do that. If you’re after community, browsing the various hashtags for Escapril or NaPoWriMo and engaging with people’s poetry is a fun way to get a sense for what’s out there and find emerging poets you love!

There’s also more ways to find community. There are people to discover in the hashtags on Twitter/X and Instagram, of course, but some people organise Discord servers or group chats to write with their friends. I’m aware of but don’t belong to at least a couple of larger, organised servers for queer poets or poets of colour.

In general, practice allows you to find your voice, discover things you didn’t know you could do, and—if you want to—participate in an international community of poets sharing their works. If you’re new to sharing your poetry, there’s no better month to practice getting it out there and seeing how you feel! If you’re an old hand who’s interested in pedagogy, it’s also a good month to check out how people talk about poetry, how it’s taught, and formulate some opinions and teaching styles of your own.

What would you even write about for 30 days straight?

Anything you like! I think there’s a general feeling especially among queers who are new to poetry that a poem must be something you write about your personal life and deepest feelings. A lot of people feel they’re just not interesting enough to write poetry about. That’s not what poetry has to look like (and also I think everyone’s got plenty of emotional depth)! 

Poems I’ve written each April include:

  • Haiku
  • Limericks and double dactyls which achieve catharsis in the form of being silly or funny rather than #deep
  • Fanfiction poems from the point of view of a character
  • Little poems about my cat, a sandwich I ate, or something else
  • Poetry in the form of receipts, calendar entries, cringe corporate blog posts, and more
  • A lot of responses, homages, or other technical experiments that refer back to a known poem or song I love.

You might be interested in poetry because you do want to express your deepest feelings. Perhaps learning a little about structure or getting to see other people’s poetry will help you decide what styles or turns of phrase you want to use. Perhaps you’re more interested in digging into why poetry’s effective—experimenting with rhetorical devices that are less well-known than alliteration, messing with line breaks for impact, tinkering with rhyme schemes or prose poems or visual poetry. Whatever you want to experiment with, a month is a long time to iterate on one theme or try a dozen. There’s no need to plumb your emotional depths for social media every day unless that’s what you want to do. 

Most importantly, have fun with it! That’s what it’s about for me: I look forward to April because I know it’s a month when I improve as a poet, get to see lots of other people’s work, and share in this joyful community of fucking around with language until we see what comes out. It’s a collective experiment and a personal journey at the same time, and a lot of what I do is everything from petty bitching through melodramatic fanfic. Most of it doesn’t see the light of day; it makes me a better poet anyway.

What do I do with the poems I write?

Share them in the hashtags for each challenge if you like! Keep them to yourself and never show anyone else! Delete them immediately! It’s really up to you. But maybe you’ll find one you like enough to submit to bad apple. Maybe reading this year’s newly-released Best New Zealand Poems will inspire you to find a voice as delightful and distinct as theirs. Maybe this is a month you take to read a poem every day, and find out what you love about language and voice and being a person who has access to the vast riches of the creative Internet. 

April’s starting! Every year, I come into it a bit apprehensive (where will I find the time to write a poem every day?), do my best (often not quite a poem every day), and discover that it’s the best work I’ve done since last April. I really enjoy the challenge, and I hope you will too 🙂

Featured photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.


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