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A poem a day


15 January 2014

Guest blogger: Katie Keys

I love words. I love reading them, writing them, playing around to see what they can do.

I love the jigsaw puzzle of trying to get all the right words in just the right order. I love scribbling them in notebooks and sending them out online. In fact, for the past four and a half years, I have written a tiny little poem every day and published it on Twitter.

Let’s do the maths for a minute … 1 poem a day for 4.5 years is (at the very least) about 1,640 poems. Sure, I’ve given myself some time off for good behaviour, for holidays, or on days when life has just got a bit too loud to ignore. But they were cancelled out by days when one poem just wasn’t enough, or when I’ve live-tweeted poems from residencies, conferences and festivals. During my residency at Arts Centre Melbourne last year, for example, I clocked up over 300 poems in the space of one week.

And even though my poems are small (they have to be 140 characters or less to fit into a tweet), that’s still more than 200,000 words – the length of 3 novels. Phew! By anyone’s count, that’s a very large body of very small work.

The smallest words
grown large
with years of care
and quick neglect,
the building blocks
of written lives and dreams.

After all that time, it’s funny to remember that I started churning out all of those words because I didn’t have time to write.

We’re all busy: with work, home, study, family and social commitments. But after years of working in the arts and helping make other people’s creative dreams come true, I got sick of hearing my own excuses for why I wasn’t following my own.

Won’t stick to my side.
Can’t draw in the lines.
I’ll stretch myself thin
and I’ll bleed
off the edge
of our lives.

“I’m too busy to write”, I’d say, or “I’m too tired”. My favourite excuse went something like this: “I have such a creative day job that I don’t have any energy left over for my own writing.” Argh.

It might seem strange to give yourself something extra to do when you’re already too busy to write. But that’s what worked for me. I set myself the deadline to write (and tweet) a little poem every day. Just in 140 characters or less. How hard could that be?

Twitter is a social media platform based on micro-blogging. Each tweet can only be 140 characters long (including punctuation and spacing). But that means it’s pretty much perfect for short-form poetry. By limiting each post to 140 characters, Twitter forces its users to be brief. This works well for poetry because it means I have to think about every single word.

It’s true that not all the poems would have made it into the world if I’d not been trying to meet my daily target, especially at first. Not all of them are great on second reading. But it got me back into the habit of daily writing and now nearly 4,500 people read my poems every day.

I look forward to continuing my poetry journey with Access2Arts in Adelaide soon.

Katie Keys is a thirty-something non-Indig Aussie Brit based in Melbourne. A poet, writer and arts manager, her work has been published in anthologies, magazines and online in Australia and beyond. An advocate of online creative communities, Katie has tweeted one tiny little poem each day @tinylittlepoems for more than four years.