My 2018 Poetry Action Plan

January 1st, 2018

I first read about a Poetry Action Plan on January Gill O’Neil’s blog Poet Mom in 2009. Has it been that long? I guess it has. January’s four basic guidelines for a Poetry Action Plan are pretty straightforward and I’m stealing them from this post of hers.

1. Clearly define your goals. Do you want to finish putting together that manuscript? Finally write sestinas without a cheat-sheet? Attend a workshop? Give more readings? Be clear about your specific goals and priorities.

2. Be realistic. You might not be able to publish 100 poems in 2018 – because if for no other reason, the vagaries of what journals pick up which pieces are at the end of the day out of the writer’s control – but you can set a goal to submit 100 poems in 2018. (Although, as I suggest below, there are a lot of reasons why a writer might decide not to submit work even if it had been, at the start of the year, a goal.)

3. Track your progress. I finally explored bullet journals last year and discovered I love them. They satisfy the list-maker, the box-checker in me. So for me they’re a great place to list the journals I want to submit to and to cross them off the list when I’ve done that.

4. Be kind to yourself. Be prepared for setbacks, life changes, or dry spells and don’t beat yourself over the head when they happen.

Clarity, specificity, and setting priorities are key to putting together a set of goals that will feel like a practice, an enhancement that energizes the writing life, and not a burden.

So here are my poetry goals for 2018:

1. Be useful. Do I know about a fellowship? Spread the word! Can I write a review? Do it! Did I read an amazing poem the other day? Share it here or on Twitter. Link to interesting interviews, spread the word about that great new podcast.

2. Become a regular review-writer by the end of the year. I published my first review last year – of Zilka Joseph’s Sharp Blue Search of Flame, inĀ Dunes Review – and want to write more reviews in 2018. This goal dovetails with goal number one – be a generous and useful member of the poetry community – and with another goal of mine, which is to become a better reader: to read more deeply and to be more critically engaged with the books I read. Actually, more accurately expressed, I want to return to the reading style required of me during my MFA program and which I enjoy but have somehow slipped a bit away from since graduation. Maybe, for the year since graduation, I needed that change of pace, a period of reading in a different way but I don’t want to lose those critical reading and writing skills I honed during my MFA program.

3. Re-invigorate this blog (how many times have I said that) and write about poetry here once a week. A lot of poetry bloggers are deciding to rededicate ourselves to our blogs in 2018 and Donna Vorreyer has a great list of links on her blog. I’ll be updating my blogroll throughout January. This is also part of my community-building goal.

4. Draft a poem a week. If it’s garbage, who cares? Garbage can be mined, mulled over, and revised (or thrown out). But I can’t revise nothing.

5. Send poems out to journals three times a month. I find setting a number on submissions a complicated goal to set for a several reasons. Maybe my work dries up; maybe my work goes in a new direction that feels risky and vulnerable and not ready to share; maybe something happens in my personal life that makes me not want to share. Maybe I get a series of rejections that suggest to me that I’m sending out work too soon or for the wrong reasons or to the wrong places and I decide to stop and re-assess. Who knows? But I do want to share my work when it’s ready to be shared, so I’m putting down a number here so that I can hold myself in some way accountable.

So those are my 2018 poetry goals. I’d love to read yours either in the comments or a link to a blog if you’re blogging your goals.

And Happy New Year or, as we say in Switzerland, guten Rutsch!

4 Responses to “My 2018 Poetry Action Plan”

  1. Sean Wright on January 2, 2018 1:59 am

    Hi Jennifer,

    I love the plan(and the Tour concept). I have signed up for the tour and hope to repeat what I did in 2016 (I dedicated the year to poetry and ended up with a debut collection as a result). This year poses challenges though; a new job and increased responsibilities.

    In 2016, I worked on a rotating schedule which I considered to be all “writing poetry”.

    I’d read closely and critically other poet’s work (as you suggest) and would pick poems apart, analyze them for each of their features/peculiarities. I’d also study technical works (Mary Kinzie’s book was great in this regard).

    I’d write my own poems, some based on exercises but after a while I think I just started synthesizing what I was reading/learning and set exercises gave way to a freer writing. I’d also regularly reflect, writing in a journal each day and then monthly as well.

    I found that the submissions and inevitable rejections became less important. I had the process to return to and when one poem came back I’d have a couple of others I was deeply engaged in writing.

    If your are interested in reading more about it I could post a link to my project page.

    In any case, I look forward to your blogging and sharing insights.

  2. ren on January 3, 2018 1:50 pm

    Thank you for repeating the plan here.
    I am also tracking a specific number of submissions – not publications. What is under my control. That also means how many hours of writing I put in each week. I control that. Most weeks. Happy writing this year. Looking forward to the tour.

  3. Jennifer on January 11, 2018 1:44 pm

    Hi Sean yes please do post a link!

  4. Jennifer on January 11, 2018 1:45 pm

    Hi Ren. I don’t keep track of the number of hours I write but I do keep track of if I managed to get to the desk every day.

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