“Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going.”
Everything is going to be amazing, said our first prompt in January. And lo, it was. Thousands of you have written from these prompts. Hundreds joined a Facebook group to share work. We had ten amazing guest poets. Work from 52 is now published in the finest literary journals and placed in international competitions. Most important, we have shared work which is astonishing in its exposure, its humanity, its courage.
More in a day or two about the two books that will emerge from the 52 experiment. But right now you have a turkey to cook and more importantly, a poem to write and oh my God, is that the time already? So let’s get on with it.
Our first prompt was a rip-roaring declaration of energy and appetite for 2014. The last is, of course, a leave-taking – but one in which sadness is prohibited. Taking your cue from Donne, your mission is to write A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning. A valediction (a poem of goodbye) implies a parting, a leaving behind. But yours will turn an ending into a triumph.
Now, John Donne is many things but ‘childishly easy to understand’ is not one of them. ‘Metaphysical’ is after all Greek for ‘much cleverer than you’. If you find his valediction a bit of a brain-teaser, you are not alone. Here’s a good and funny dissection of it. Now, read the Donne again until your head hurts; which it will do, especially if you’ve had too much sherry trifle. Basically he’s saying – I’ll be back. We can’t be separated, because we’re always together. Likewise Cummings’ poem here, if not exactly a goodbye, finds the good in being apart.
Then you can spend the whole of Boxing Day reading this long and wonderful Hymn to Life which, if it anticipates death and leave-taking, does it in a blaze of gratitude for good things. What do you want to say goodbye to? This blog? Fair enough, but that might be a waste of a moment with the Muse. Perhaps the bright new poetry exposed by 52 means saying goodbye to what preceded it. A poem of beginnings or discovery – like this one – implies a farewell to what came before. Or imagine a historic goodbye – Elizabeth I still haughty on her deathbed, Neil Armstrong saying goodbye to the much-loved Earth and wondering what his mission to the moon might bring. Goodbye to parents as you leave for university – goodbye to a marriage which, though it’s over, has taught you things you needed to learn. Goodbye to the bloody family as they leave on Boxing Day, allowing you to reclaim the house. Goodbye to 2014, and welcome to 2015.
Whatever it is, make it a valediction without mournfulness. Say goodbye with joy.
52, I love you. KEEP GOING.
*turns back into pumpkin*
[If you’ve enjoyed the 52 project or just admired it from afar, you can help us to fund the two new books which will give it a meaningful legacy, and get a copy of the first one as a thank you! Have a look at our record-breaking Crowdfunder campaign here.]