Despite having written poetry on and off for a bit over forty years, it’s been a year of poetry firsts for me. It’s the third year I participated in the Writer’s Digest Poem-a-Day challenge in April, National Poetry Month here in the States, but the first year I posted my responses to the daily challenges on the blog. After April, I continued participating on the blog in response to the Wednesday poetry prompts, and now I’m taking part in the November Chapbook Poem-a-Day-Challenge. It’s all a wonderful, and liberating experience.

For years the primary reader of my poems was my father, a professor of English who has been the sharpest, most appreciative reader one could want: warm, responsive, insightful, and an astute, supportive critic who unfailing places a finger on the one place in a poem I’d pondered over and let slide. He’s hit four-score and more years now, and I’ve finally deluged him with so many poems he’s drowning in them. That’s where participation in the blog both surprised and delighted me.

I hadn’t thought about the rewards of sharing poems with other poets online. My original impetus for participating was to get over that odd case of writer’s freeze that stems from indecision. What do I write about when there is such an abundance of possibilities? The daily prompts freed me from having to make that decision. I only had to jump into the fray in response. That I found immediately liberating. Poems poured out. Even more delightful, in that liberation I’m no longer frozen when it comes to writing poems about whatever else I want. But the real surprise has been my discovery of community.

When I spent a year in a Masters of Writing poetry program at Washington University in St. Louis, a wonderful year in many ways, but not in the ways of writing poetry, my would-be fellow poets and I ripped one another’s poems to shreds, and midway through the year none of us were writing squat. Perhaps that bad taste had me shy away from the community of poets, though it didn’t stop me from periodically submitting poems to the magazines and garnering some publications.

Instead, on the Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides blog, I discovered poets appreciative and supportive of one another, their comments varying from a simple “Wow!” to short elaborations about what, in particular, they especially admire. Their kind words and keen insights are encouraging and eye-opening, and has led me both to start this blog and finally, after years of silence, submit poems to the mags.