Four years ago now, I came up with this crazy idea for a poetry marathon, a day when poets wrote 24 poems in 24 hours. I googled it to see if it already existed so that I could participate. Since google revealed nothing but poetry reading marathons, a different beast entirely, I told Jacob about my idea. I was going to do it on my personal blog.
But Jacob really liked the idea, in fact he wanted to try it too. In fact he thought other people might want to as well. So he designed a basic site for it, and that summer we convinced a very small number of people to join us in this crazy scheme. Only one other person completed it, Melissa McCarter (and she wrote some terrific poems). Although others got awfully close.
Based on the poems we wrote and published during that time, the second year was a lot easier sell. Writers were interested as they had seen that it had worked for others. However we skipped that summer, due largely in part to the fact that we had no fixed home base and things were chaotic, even without a marathon.
However in the summer of 2014 we set a date and made it happen. This time over a hundred people attempted to complete either a half or whole marathon. It was a real experience.
Jacob and I had no problem finding participants and we only had a small window of time when they could sign up. Part of that is because made there be a half marathon option. We did this because of popular demand, Not even is up to producing that many poems in a fixed amount of time or staying up all night (with naps, if you so choose).
Each year I participated I learned something different. During the first year I learned that it was possible to complete a marathon while writing longer poems, as I challenged myself to always write at least 22 lines. I also learned how much mental energy and focus writing like that required. The next day I felt very drained, and could not even remember writing many of the poems.
Right before we held the marathon in 2014, I did a solo marathon that spring. Jacob supported me but did not write. This was the least rewarding of any of the marathons, but I did learn that exercising between writing periods helped keep my energy and focus up. It was less rewarding in part because I was doing it alone.
The 2014 marathon was the first one with a large number of participants from all over the world. There was a group facebook page where everyone could chat with one another. Also the main page during the marathon was constantly being updated with everyone’s new poems. It was really impressive and motivating. It really gave me energy to write new and compelling poems.
Last year during the 2016 Poetry Marathon I was 7 and a half months pragnent. This time an even larger number of participants were involved. However well in advance of the marathon I realized that I could not compete in the full marathon, I would have to do a half marathon instead. I could not lose that much sleep while in the third trimester.
I was disappointed initially to know that I was only going to do a half marathon when I knew I was capable of doing a full one. In fact I didn’t really prepare for the marathon like I usually do. I was not taking it seriously, up to the point where it was 6 am and I was writing the first poem.
Suddenly I realized that I would only have 12 chances to produce a really good poem instead of the usual 24. I had to make every poem count. Usually I only spend 20-30 minutes on every poem. If one is awful I feel a little embarrassed posting it, but it feels unavoidable.
During the half marathon I instead spent 30-40 minutes on almost every poem. I really focused on crafting good poems. If I didn’t like the poem I started I scrapped it before reaching the last line. Instead of thinking about conserving my energy so that I could continue going for 24 hours, I just focused on using the energy that I had and not thinking about the next hour or the next poem.
I think I expanded as much energy and focus in 12 hours as I usually expanded in 24.
In short it was a wonderful and exhausting experience. Next year I will most likely do the full marathon instead, but I will approach it with the same focus, the same willingness to use up all the energy I have on one poem.