Poetry Month Scouts: A Guest Post by Marsha Schuh

Since the Academy of American Poets first established National Poetry Month in 1996, poets and poetry lovers have celebrated the month through readings, workshops, festivals, and “poem-a-day” challenges. Each year, the number of events seems to grow. Each year, I begin a poem-a-day challenge with the intention of writing 30 poems during the month of April, but I’ve never been successful—until 2015.

In March of this year, I stumbled upon a particularly inspiring challenge called PoMoSco, short for Poetry Month Scouts. PoMoSco was sponsored by the Found Poetry Review, and 213 poets from 43 states and 12 countries around the world took part. By its conclusion, they produced more than 6,000 poems, and I was one of them! Each participating poet had the possibility of earning 30 digital merit badges for the month’s creative work. The prompts were divided into five categories named for the method of their generation: remixing, erasure, out and about, conceptual, and chance operation. You can read all about the badges and more at PoMoSco.com. Each category provided six distinct badges that varied in their level of difficulty. Poets chose their own source texts and venues from which to craft their poems.

One of my own favorites was “First in Line” according to which we were to choose a published book of poems and craft our own poem using select first lines, keeping the wording of the original intact, and organizing them in any order, thus creating an original “cento.” I chose Barbara Crooker’s wonderful book, Gold, and after the experience of creating my cento, I was hooked. Two other badges that I especially enjoyed were “Crowd Source” and “Survey Says.” In the first, we were to choose a concrete noun (I chose “doorway”) and ask at least ten people to either define the word or explain what the word made them think about or feel. From the gathered words alone, we had to create a poem that did not mention the original word. The second badge entails making up a questionnaire of eight to ten questions and asking several people to answer them in writing. The words we collected from their answers constituted the word bank for our poem. Not only did this challenge result in a pretty good poem, but it also helped me learn some fascinating things about my friends.

I think this poem-a-day challenge was so much fun and so motivating for me because of the quality and inventiveness of the prompts. Jenni Baker, Editor in Chief of the Found Poetry Journal, and her team of scoutmasters and badgemasters did a great job of creating the challenge, motivating us, and maintaining the very professional website. Poets who took part in PoMoSco were forced to write outside their comfort zones and to experiment with new ways of thinking and writing. We discovered new tools and learned to let go of our own techniques and favorite ways of doing things; this sparked more creativity. We also met and learned from the fellow “scouts,” made new friends, and created a close and supportive community of writers.

PoMoSco is the Found Poetry Review’s fourth National Poetry Project, and this one was, in the words of one of the other participants, “the best poetry month project yet.” She wonders how they will be able to top it next year. Be sure to check next March for the 2016 challenge. If this year’s project is any indication, it should be great fun, highly original, and exceptionally motivational. You may still visit the website—PoMoSco.com until May 31, 2015 to read this year’s great—and sometimes wild—collection of poetry.