According to legend, October 25 is the day on which the poet Geoffrey Chaucer died. Different accounts put his age at between 55 and 60. I'd like to propose a project to celebrate this event.
In 2003, I hosted in this journal something I had hosted in my own life for years--the idea of a "100 poems project". I explained its concept here. The whole thing stems from one of my core values--that creative expression has an importance which moves beyond the commercialization, institutionalization or even the aptitude-ization of the various arts. My theory does not deny or negate the importance of commerce, talent, and institutions. My thrust is not about abnegation and denial at all. I focus on the positive--on the sense of relief and release in exploring one's inner child and taking it for a good run at the playground.
I explain my theory of poetry accompanied by music here. I am accompanied there, by the way, by a wonderful bell sample by a European artist named Click. For those without the high-speed connection or the patience to hear such retreaded ideas, I'll summarize them by saying that I learned one Summer in London about the priceless nature of worthless verse frpm a group of anonymous poets I met in a conference room over poems.
I don't have any grand insight into Geoffrey Chaucer. Like many people who majored in physics but had a "special emphasis area" in English literature, a commonplace approach to study, I am sure,
I can intone Middle English as if I meant it in elaborate gashes of material about April showers and women named Griselda, thanks to a three hour course with a side dialect-imitation requirement.
I do have a grand insight, though, that fewer poems are written while thinking about poetry than while writing poetry. While I do not claim any strong point in craft (being a little frustrated that I could never figure out how to properly knot craftstrip in church camp for anything but keychains), I observe in my wanderings that writing practice has an odd way of making poets in ways that writing theory sometimes fails to do.
I write every day for work and fun. Yet my poetry production this year, while not negligible, has not been impressive. I propose, therefore, a community of poetry. I propose the Chaucer 60.
Let's take the next 60 days to write poems. I don't mean to write the "perfect" poem, or even technically wonderful poems. I certainly don't mean to write the poems that are the essence of one's being and will require a crowbar to pry out. Those poems matter--they may matter the most.
But I am asking one and all to be the hare and not the tortoise in this race. Write swiftly. Write often. Write heedless of Aesop's grasshopper.
Let's pretend that December 25 is sixty days after October 25. It's actually 62, but I figure everyone needs a little grace. If you join me in this project, then I will be delighted to have you aboard. I live in a world full of rules. I am actually a big believer in rules. But you'll pardon me for my inconsistency if I tell you that the Chaucer 60 will have no rules per se.
You may write in free verse, blank verse, rhymed verse, as you wish and will and can.
I'd be delighted to help you in any way I can. I will read your verse. I am not much for critiques, but I'd be willing to critique your verse. If you'd like to read your verse on a recording, I'd even be willing, floodgates unopened, to set your voice and verse to music.
I caution you that I loosely define the term "music".
What will we have when we are done? Well, we'll have poems. We'll have a sense of community. Some of us will have a fitting warm-up and wind-down from www.nanowrimo.org, while others of us will have a workable alternative to that worth institution. Some of us may choose to submit for publications. Others of us may add the poems to our side journals.
A Chaucer character once said something about how truth is the highest thing a person may keep.
I ask you to write your truths in 12 or 18 or 24 lines. How many poems might you write in 60 days? I have no idea. I set no goal or limit. But I ask you to write abundantly, faster than you intend, and that you write more heedlessly of your "craft" and more thoughtfully from the quickness of your heart. You're quick, not dead. You're not seeking immortality. You're living eternal life.
When we are done, we will have erected our own fitting memorial to poetry, a memorial of dust and hope and dreams and haste. Will you join me in our journey,for sixty days?