How I wrote this week’s poems: Reliable reminders

Photograph of a lined, spiral-bound notebook open with writing on the left page. Shadows from the spiral binding are cast to the left, onto the writing.

Hi folks,

I’m completing a 30/30 challenge with Tupelo Press this month, and each week I’m planning to write a blog post about how I wrote the week’s poems. This one is coming in a day later than I had planned, and I think I should be realistic and say that I’m going to post these blogs on Saturdays instead of Fridays. But! Without further ado: here’s how I wrote this week’s poems.

This week, many of the poems I had drafted were based on some reliable prompts I use to help me get started. For three of the poems this week, I had written a kind of haiku (they rarely mentioned the season) and then used those haiku in a golden shovel-esque manner and put each word of the haiku at the end or the beginning of each line. The other three poems were not written in this way, but one of the poems was a sonnet, which, at this point, is sort of a comfort zone for me. Sonnets are known quantities. If I am at a loss for what kind of poem to write, I’ll probably write a sonnet.

Though most of the poems are a sort of immediate reaction to the world around me or my own thoughts (one of my poems this week was a slightly grotesque meditation on the saying “by the skin of your teeth”), around the middle of the week I’ve started feeling like this kind of immediacy was unsatisfying. I’m reading Climate Lyricism by Min Hyoung Song, and reading the book feels like a return and a rebuke. A return, because my MFA was focused on environmental writing, and I’ve always considered myself an environmental/ecocritical writer, and reading this book is reminding me of that environmental focus. A rebuke, though, because being reminded means that I had forgotten, and needed the reminder.

I am trying not to be so hard on myself about this. Many of my poems have been unconsciously environmental, and I have always thought that my poems, more than my prose, have done more of the environmental work that I want to be doing. So instead of chastising myself for letting these global concerns stray from view, I am grateful that this book is guiding me back. (I’m still making my way through the book, and I’m refraining from posting my full thoughts because I’m writing a review of it for a journal, but the book is already providing so many sources of inspiration.)

Two more sources of inspiration: Kirsten Miles gave the May 30/30 cohort a wonderful craft talk about the line that I’m still ruminating. And this past Thursday I listened to Dr. Kwame Dawes read some fresh poetry inspired by an exhibit at the Sheldon Art Museum of some photos responding to the work of Barry Lopez. That reading, too, felt like a return, to me; hearing Dr. Dawes read his work and talk about the multiple layers of inspiration renewed my own energy for poetry.

As I’m doing this 30/30 challenge, I know that I’ll have to actively maintain the well of inspiration from which I draw my words. Please consider donating–there are even a few rewards you can redeem if you donate certain amounts!

Thanks for reading!

Published by Caroliena Cabada

Caroliena Cabada is a writer currently based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing, Fiction, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her writing has been published in online and print journals and anthologies, and has been selected for Best Small Fictions 2021.

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