Cursor blinks at me innocently
Upon the Times throne it resides.
Expectant, it waits for prose
from marionette hands.
Happy National Poetry Writing Month! Often affectionately referred to as NaPoWriMo, the month of April serves to celebrate readers and writers alike with the optional creative challenge of writing a poem a day for its 30-day duration. It was this time last year that I had stumbled upon one of these daily prompts to compose a nonet. This type of poem required the specific format where the first line has nine syllables, the second line has eight, and so forth until you reach the last line, which would be just one syllable. Prompts such as these are one of the many reasons I enjoy poetry and creative writing. With the purposeful placement and selection of specific words, if not syllable) — all to evoke heart-soaring, quiet, twisting, triumphant, and resonant emotions—with such tenderness and care, it is very hard not to be enamored by a poet’s craftsmanship. In my humble, nerdy opinion. The untapped potential and overwhelming multitudes of possibility are what makes a blank page all the more exciting and dreadful at the same time.
Therefore during last April, I was inspired by my intensive rewatch of The Queen’s Gambit and by the mockery of slow progress on an assignment (most assuredly was not an Honors project or anything… definitely just a typical report…) to compose the nonet for the NaPoWriMo prompt. I found that writer’s block, if not writing itself, is acutely similar to a match of chess. Each move and paragraph is purposeful in building upon its prior movements to achieve a desired narrative, whether that’s checkmate or a defense of a three-point thesis.
Fellow detail-oriented overthinkers may also relate to instances of having your hands frozen in the air above the keyboard, poised “Thriller” dance style, from the efforts of trying to remember that one word or ghost of a phrase to make or break your paper and maintain your writing groove in the face of mental gridlock. With the post-spring break influx of assignments and exams, some of you are probably enduring that very existence right now. Just as a chess opponent may strategize to play cat-and-mouse with you, so too have I found myself feeling strung along and thrown off course by writer’s block, which inspired my imagery of the cursor as a stoic ruler, whose will and bidding befalls this lowly, marionette-author. [Aside: For those curious, “castling queenside” is a real move you can perform in a chess match! It is actually one of the only moves where two pieces, the rook and queen, are moved at once, given that neither piece has moved from its original position at the match’s start. This can also be done using the king piece, remarkably denoted as kingside castling.]
Growing up, I had always loved poetry, from the whimsical Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends to Sarah Kay’s ardent slam poem “If I Should Have a Daughter” (there’s a TED Talk performance of it!) and many many more. Yet being caught within the cycle of crowded syllabi and deadlines, I didn’t have time to read as much poetry as I wanted to, let alone write anything. Therefore, I was ever so grateful for the NaPoWriMo and its prompt finding me at somehow such an obscurely mundane but perfect time to help in rekindling that gentle love for this craft and reminding me of the creative outlet I never knew I needed so dearly.
The internet is riddled with the challenge prompts of NaPoWriMo days’ past, as well as generic prompts from all sorts of writing collectives and organizations, and now, when I find myself at a GoogleDoc stalemate, I give a prompt or two a gander to grant myself a brief reprieve from academics. For those looking to take on a new hobby, have a simple distraction, or execute creatively productive procrastination, I would highly recommend exploring poetry, whether reading or writing them; you’ll find there’s a piece of it for almost every walk of life.
And when all was said and done, taking the time to attempt this nonet prompt gave me the necessary shift in perspective and creativity to knock out my assignment in record time, so who knows? Maybe your Canvas notifications will thank you for it.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, “186 South College” will be posting the work of Honors students weekly throughout the month of April and May as bonus content. If you or someone you know would like to share their work as a guest writer, we are accepting submissions at this link.