Why I’m password-protecting my PAD Challenge poetry drafts

I am doing the PAD (Poem a Day) Challenge this year. I’ve done it before, and the result has been very good for my publications list and for my growth as a poet. There’s nothing like renewing the habit of daily writing. I can’t sustain it forever and am not sure I’d want to. However, this month can lead to a renewal of a more reachable goal, that of one fresh poetry draft a week with one revision worked on each week. That is the cycle I aim for, the cycle that my academic writing and teaching responsibilities can at time derail. April is a way to get the rhythm back.

I am posting drafts to this blog, but posts move to password-protected once I add the draft. This is a very odd choice for me, but one forced onto me by the marketplace. I prefer to be an open blogger, but the current trend in literary journals is to side-step the whole prior-publication issue and weighing the difference between an onllne journal and a blog by calling any web presence prior publication. Here is what Poetry‘s website states about their prior publication policy:

Does Poetry accept previously published material?
No. We cannot consider anything that has been previously published or accepted for publication, anywhere, in any form. Work that has appeared online is considered to have been previously published and should not be submitted. We do not consider simultaneous submissions.

So what is a blogger and poet to do? These are not poems yet, you understand. For most drafts, I revise intensively in multiple session, sometimes over years, and the draft I submit to journals in the end can (and often is) incredibly different from its ambitious yet off-kilter beginnings. In fact, one tremendous advantage to doing this challenge is what it brings to the classroom. Poetry students can see the work in progress, thus gaining more than abstract assertions about revision. I can point out, for example, where I slide to the close too soon because the I ran out of draft for the night or to the warm-up writing that got the poem started, but will be mercilessly cut once I get a handle on the real focus of the poem.

An easier solution would be to simply “play along at home,” to do my drafting in a word processor document that remains private. I do keep that document because my fingers just won’t draft poetry into a text box with the same ease that they draft a blog entry. I also am scared silly about losing drafts, so that document is my backup. However, the PAD Challenge is about making poetry visible, about many, many people sharing their daily attempts at an art that refuses to die. The password is my compromise. I may not get poems into Poetry, but I will start sending out packets again in May. I don’t want the possibility taken away.

So if you know me and are interested in seeing the drafts, I can give you the password off-site. This makes the blogged drafts similar to papers passed to another’s hands in workshop and then passed back again with scribbled notes, an act that is increasingly hard to have now that grad school is long over and the poets I know scattered over several thousand miles. Also let me know if you are doing this, even if you don’t share your drafts. That, too, is the point of this challenge–the knowledge that others are taking a part of each day in April for poetry.

 

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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