(Illustration: Sam Falconer)

Topics: UCC in Focus | Opinion

What I learned from writing a poem a day

This creative experiment taught me to find the sacred in the mundane

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I’ve been writing poetry since I could first hold a pencil. My oldest sample is a pair of original poems from the early 1990s. They’re unbearably trite, but the metre is good. I must have been about six.

Poems poured out of me for years, but adulthood and an English degree changed something. Writing poetry became harder — a result I wanted to achieve instead of an experience that thrilled me. Three years ago, at 28, I set out to reclaim what I’d lost. I decided to spend a year writing a poem every day and posting them on social media.

Some days I did the bare minimum (“Throb feet / Ache head / Want / Food / Home / Bed”), but even the weakest stanza fed into my goal: to prove to myself that I could do more with discipline than I ever could with inspiration.


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Something started happening to my brain. As I got in the habit of casting around for things worth writing about, I got in the habit of finding them. Everything became a worthy subject. Everything held some sacred spark of meaning. I noticed this the morning I described a desiccated weed at a wintry construction site, haloed by the sun: “Ah yes, / There is beauty still.”

With that, the old floodgates opened. My childhood unselfconsciousness was still missing, but I cultivated my new sacred headspace into easy habit. In that state, the tilting of a dog’s head revealed the journey from gloom to gratitude. Winter-bare trees were the anguish and thrill of vulnerability. Household chores were rituals of unified human experience. Poetry was all around me.

As I got in the habit of casting around for things worth writing about, I got in the habit of finding them.

In the years since my experiment, I’ve lost some of my good habits. But every so often, I slip back into that sacred headspace and write whatever I find there. Call it poetry or mindfulness — call it prayer, even. The more I experience it, the more I think they’re all the same: a grateful, watchful wide-openness to the universe’s smallest meanings.

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This article first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2021 issue with the title “A poem a day.”

Erin Alladin is a writer in McKellar, Ont.


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