For the fourth year – the last three, consecutive – I have enjoyed the challenge of writing 12 poems in 12 hours. I was surprisingly relaxed this time around, even to the point of considering pushing myself to do the full 24. But my new puppy had other ideas about my availability. So in addition to providing her own prompt, she has challenged me/us to be ready to tackle the longer marathon by next year. In addition to offering a wide variety of prompts (and this year, each hour’s prompt included at least two options – one verbal, the other visual – which I sometimes combined in my response), the marathon offers an immediate community of like-minded poets writing, reading, commenting on and most of all, encouraging one another on a private Facebook page during the process and in the days following. It is in the days following that the reading/feedback starts in earnest. Some connections made during this intense period of time continue over the months until the next year’s marathon. Others exist in the bubble of this single week in June. Some are utterly transient, the chance comment seen or responded to when someone is hurting, frustrated, jubilant.
No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with 12 -24 new writings to ponder, revise, scrap, repurpose. It’s all good. Raw material, yes. But more, it awakens something inside. In particular, after this pandemic year of isolation and inner-dependency, those 12 hours opened up possibility and connection. I was reminded of how much shared interest and curiosity there is in the international writing world. At some point I’ll get the statistics – how many participated from how many countries. For now, I am basking in the microcosm of lives shared on my tiny computer screen, spanning the globe, time zones, ages and every/anything else you can name. We shared favorite snacks, music selections, memes, tears, side stories, background stories, what was working and what was not, photos of our space or view or first draft … All of this, plus all the original poetry. No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with a lot more than they started with.
Huge gratitude to the annual organizers, Jacob Jans and Caitlin Jans, for their tireless devotion to furthering creativity around the world, And for their transparency in sharing their own limitations, enlisting the support of others to continue this fine tradition of poem-making and sharing.