A few years ago, as a New Year’s resolution, I decided to write one poem a day.
I was inspired by my grandfather, who, at 92, would jot down a few notes every day in his dayplanner about what had happened that day, even though from where anybody else was sitting not much was happening at all.
Still, it was a practice that helped him differentiate one day from the next.
The motivation was cured further over dinner with my partner’s grandmother. In her late 80s, she confessed that she regretted not keeping a journal. “You forget so much,” she said. The days all blur into one, she said, unless you make an effort to identify one true thing that makes today different from yesterday. “They just slip away so quickly.”
And in a way, that’s what the poem-a-day was. A word-Polaroid. A dated snapshot. An attempt to harness the velocity of this life, and if not to actually slow it down, to keep pace.
Some days, some weeks, I was swept up in the current of life and the notebook didn’t float. But I kept returning to it.
This year, I recommitted to the poem-a-day project. I dropped $55 on an A4 Moleksine notebook, so the dated page (and the audaciously expensive paper) would hold me accountable.
Today is December 31, and I close the book. I have written 365 ordinary poems.
I might have to write a thousand, in order to write one truly brilliant one (like strange and shining poets I stumble upon.)
But even if I never manage to write a poem that shines, and even if I never sit down at the age of 80-something and follow the trail of crumbs that leads back through all my days, to this new 2012 notebook, all fresh pages and promise, the exercise has allowed me to look at each day of my life as if there is something brilliant worth plucking out, burnishing down to a handful of words and holding up to the light.