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Writer Joanie DiMartino blogs about why she is participating in National Poetry Writing Month.

As with most poets, National Poetry Writing Month begins for me in late March with sharpening of pencils, selecting of a fresh notebook and several pens and, most importantly, deciding on a project or an approach to a topic. I had taken NaPoWriMo 2011 off as I was creatively exhausted from completing my first full-length collection of over one hundred and twenty pages of poetry in mid-2010; but this year, I was ready to once again stretch my creative muscles.

I had spent late autumn and winter of last year battling an infestation of bed bugs. This experience gave me glimmerings of poems: ideas and titles that I dutifully jotted down on scraps of paper, napkins, exterminator bills, whatever was on-hand at the time. Upon review of these jottings collected in a folder, I realized I had the beginnings of a new chapbook.

While the earth is bursting forward into a new season, into longer days and warmer weather, I find that my creativity, too, blossoms. Therefore, April, as National Poetry Writing Month seemed an ideal time to explore the possibilities of generating a solid manuscript draft to revise over the rest of the summer.

Armed with a new computer folder and a tentative title, The Bed Bug Diaries, I began the month rising early, before daybreak and the routine of getting my son ready for school, and quickly the poems took shape. I was also researching bed bugs, learning more about their anatomy and habits, building on the foundation of knowledge I developed when I was merely trying to eradicate them from my apartment. For me, research leads to more ideas, and I found myself writing poems from the perspective of the bed bugs themselves in a sequence of “Nocturnes.”

And then, just as I was gaining creative momentum, reality struck in mid-April: I caught my (hopefully) last flu of the season, I was on the phone a couple times with my son’s teacher because my son refused to complete his class work, there was a major holiday as well which also included extra hours at my part-time job (I work at a local chocolate shop), and other unexpected mundane odds and ends occurred that slowly ground the writing of a poem draft a day to a near-halt.

Yes, the writing slowed, maybe, but not the desire or intent to write. And I have learned that through all sorts of life’s trials, the Muse sometimes rewards me with serendipitous moments to aid me on my poetic journey and to keep me on task. For example, late this month I happened onto a clearance copy of the book Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt, with an entire chapter on the natural and cultural history of bed bugs – oh joy!

Since I can’t afford (either money or time) to attend a writing colony, each April allows me the opportunity to commit to a poetry project and also offers some much-needed time pressure to get a solid start. While I may not always write a poem every single day, the idea of attempting to generate about 30 poems in one month’s time yields enough results to make the endeavor worthwhile. That is what makes my participation in NaPoWriMo so vital: I reaffirm myself as poet.

Joanie DiMartino is the author of Strange Girls (Little Red Tree Publishing, 2010), which was nominated for the Connecticut Book Award in poetry, and a chapbook, Licking the Spoon (Finishing Line Press, 2007). Her work has been featured in collaborative exhibits with visual artists in both Kentucky and Connecticut. She has worked in the history museum field for over fifteen years, and her work often pairs history with a feminist perspective. Along with performing poetry, she hosts Soup & Sonnets, a monthly literary salon for women and also reviews books and leads workshops. The Bed Bug Diaries is forthcoming from Amethyst Arsenic Press.

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