A poem a day

Jessica WalshSeptember 5, 2014

Jessica Walsh says she's always on her students to revise, revise, revise. So imagine a scenario where the associate professor at Harper College must generate a poem each and every day for an entire month.

That's exactly what Walsh signed up when she applied to the 30/30 Project, a marathon of poetry that aims to raise awareness for the literary art while also benefiting the nonprofit Tupelo Press.

"I'm sure that every day, I'll cringe, just wishing my poems were different," she said. "Usually the revision process is slow, so this is going to be a unique challenge."

Walsh, who received a doctorate in English from the University of Iowa, has been at Harper for 12 years and teaches composition and literature. She first came across the 30/30 Project while searching for a publishing house to pick up her manuscript. The book-length collection of poetry, "How to Break My Neck," is the product of her sabbatical from Harper during the fall 2013 semester.

To write the manuscript, which builds on the idea of people's last words, Walsh sat at her home computer eight hours a day for months on end. But with a full course load this fall, she won't have that luxury for the 30 poems she'll produce in September.

Her plan is to make notes at night when she has ideas (but not necessarily the cognitive wherewithal to develop them). Come morning, she'll buckle down and write. She's committed to coming up with original work each day and says she won't turn to the large stockpile of poems she's penned and polished over the years.

"I want to embrace the spirit of this challenge and make it worthwhile," said Walsh, who also submitted new work during Tupelo's application process "to give them an honest representation of what I'll be producing."

Walsh said that when writing poetry, she tends to look for the "bizarreness" of every day.

"I take small experiences and look for the larger abstract and surreal implications," she said. "I try to connect poetry to my real life."

She encourages people to keep in mind that there's something in poetry for everyone.

"There's a stigma that poetry is a special thing that you either 'get' or 'don't get,'" she said. "And that's just not the case. There's plenty of poetry that I don't get but can appreciate. I hope this endeavor prompts people to take a chance on poetry more and find someone they connect with as a reader."

Media contact: Kim Pohl, Media Relations Manager, 847.925.6159