I'm going to say right up front that I didn't go about All Poetry Autumn in a particularly methodical way. A responsible blogger-poet would have kept track of the poetry she read, the poetry she wrote, all the ways in which she honored her totally-invented-for-no-apparent-reason process. I didn't do any of that, although I can tell you that APA 2013 was a staggering success from my perspective.
For one thing, it kept me focused on poetry, an often-difficult task during the Fall semester. I love me some fiction, especially some Scandinavian crime fiction (which is, by the way, not at all limited to that girl and her tattoo, a book I couldn't make it through), and I have a couple of Jo Nesbo-with-a-slash-through-the-o books that have been sitting in my iPad since the end of the summer. When I'm teaching, I regularly want some non-academic reading, books I can enjoy without thinking about them too much, the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie (although my standards for such are, I've come to learn, higher than average). Or Runner's World, back issues of which are also stacked up on my iPad. I knew going into the end of September that trying to focus on poetry during these past three months was going to be tough—it's basically the toughest time of my year to do something like that. But I'm a girl who's been known to enjoy proving herself, so there you go.
I had some rules, but not many: because I get paid to read student essays and other preparatory stuff for my teaching, I couldn't just not read prose. So APA had to apply to my non-academic reading. I also decided that reading prose geared toward my poetry was also permissible, as long as it was no stretch at all to explain it. I'm working on an essay about place in poetry—an aspect of my own work that's pretty obvious to anyone who's read more than a couple of my poems—so I had no trouble justifying my reading of Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, for example, or Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous (which is also about place, even though it sounds like a Harlequin romance novel about a rebellious witch and the ruggedly handsome warlock tasked with taming her). Diane Lockward's excellent craft book The Crafty Poet hasn't left my bedside table since it arrived, even though it contains essays as well as poems. The other thing that doesn't leave my nightstand? A notebook and a pen, because all three of these books prompted poems of my own, exactly the kind of result APA was intended to achieve.
In general, though, I read poetry. Lots and lots of poetry. I'm in the middle of Donald Revell's Pennyweight Windows: New and Selected Poems, which is currently taking pride of place beside my bed. Right here on the breakfast tray I use as a lap desk, there are three books: a collection of Paul Celan poems (70 Poems, translated by Michael Hamburger), Mary Ruefle's Trances of the Blast, and an anthology of poems by runners which I happen to have work in: Bearers of Distance. I've also read Robert Hass' The Apple Trees at Olema, a book by fellow Cider Press Review editor Catherine Carter (The Swamp Monster at Home), Thom Gunn's Boss Cupid, which I must have read a dozen times now, the National Book Awards finalists The Big Smoke (Adrian Matejka) and Black Aperture (Matt Rasmussen), and tons of others. Some of them left me a little cold, some of them (like Black Aperture) left me gobsmacked. Some of them were recent and some of them had been kicking around on my shelves for years. Some of them were me returning to books I'd been meaning to get around to re-reading (like Catherine's book, or Gunn's). All of them were worth my time.
I also wrote poetry—it's too soon yet to say if any of it is worth reading, but it's been written. Or begun, at least. And I'm happy with some of the drafts. I revised older poems, some of which I hadn't previously really known how to handle. What's more, I filled up my tank with ways to think about my own work and the work of others. I found some new-to-me voices to admire. I kept poetry coming off the shelf for sales and coming out of the stacks at the library.
So, would I do it again? Absolutely. I have just begun to read prose again, skimming through an excellent and potentially dangerous (and much-longed-for) baking cookbook I received for Christmas, and spending the moments before sleep last night with the (signed!) copy of Lawrence Block's newest Bernie Rhodenbarr novel my brother sent me, which is always a good time, if a quick read. And the Nesbo books await, along with those back issues of Runner's World. Then again, the Celan translations are right here, next to my left hand, and I used part of an Amazon gift certificate to pick up Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano's already-essential book The Daily Poet, which offers a different prompt for every day of the year. I've drafted three poems in the past two days, and worked on revisions, and thought about my editorial work and my own writing in multiple new ways, so maybe some of that prose will have to wait a little longer…