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Operation Poetry Dare: What a Poetry Buddy Is For


poetry dare poetry buddy

A few weeks ago, we dared poetry-avoidant Nancy Franson to read a poem a day and share her experience with us. To sweeten the deal, we arranged for Nancy to have a Poetry Buddy, someone who would read along with her, let her ask questions along the way. Megan Willome shares her side of the Poetry Dare experiment today.


My official title for Operation Poetry Dare: Poetry Buddy.

My partner: Nancy Franson.

When Tweetspeak proposed this project, I was relieved I wouldn’t have to draw from my extensive poetry knowledge (which I lack). All I had to do was read a poem a day from Every Day Poems and discuss it.

The arrangement between Nancy and me is simple. Each of us reads the poem and then sends the other an email saying what we think or anything we notice. Or really, anything at all. I’ve encouraged Nancy to read the poem first — not my email — so my impressions don’t count for too much. When she began to express different opinions from mine, I knew we were on the right track.

After about a month, Nancy wrote, “You clearly love poetry, and I’ve been wondering how that happened. How did you fall in love with poetry?”

Well, uh. Hmm.

I don’t think I loved poetry in high school, although I did write some bad poems. I had a wonderful professor in college who was passionate about Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, but I can’t say I got into it then either.

It happened in 2002, when I started writing again, when my oldest went to kindergarten and my youngest went to preschool. Someone said all writers need a ritual. I decided mine would be tea and The Writer’s Almanac.

That’s it. I’ve been reading a poem a day for 12 years. (Now, I usually read two or three.)

I’ve had a subscription to Every Day Poems since it launched, but I didn’t always read carefully. There were a couple of months I didn’t read them at all. But doing Operation Poetry Dare with Nancy makes me read each poem several times. Tania Runyan got me reading them aloud. Too often in the past, it was easy to just like the ones I liked. Now, because I have to comment on every single poem, I try a little harder. And when I do, sometimes a poem surprises me.

Like Time of Need, a poem about a girl dragging a dead dog. I told Nancy it was good, but not a keeper. By the time I’d finished my email, noting the line breaks and several phrases I thought were interesting, I was printing the darn thing to save forever in my poetry scrapbook.

Yes, of course I have a poetry scrapbook.

Nancy and I have been close friends for a couple of years. We know one another’s angst, but sharing a poem a day gives us extra insight into each other. When we traded emails on Visiting Amber, all I wrote was, “I really can’t handle this one.”

Nancy wrote back, “Yep. I was afraid it might hit you like that.” And then she went on to help me see what was good in that gut-wrenching poem.

That’s what a poetry buddy is for.

Photo by Jim Sneddon, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Megan Willome, Poetry Buddy.

Follow the rest of Nancy and Megan’s journey in Operation Poetry Dare:

Operation Poetry Dare: Introduction

Operation Poetry Dare: I Can’t Dance to It

Operation Poetry Dare: For the Love


Take your own poetry dare? Subscribe to Every Day Poems to receive a poem a day, paired with beautiful art and photography, delivered conveniently to your inbox Monday through Friday. Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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Your Comments

20 Comments so far

  1. I may have to go into a deep dark funk when all this fun is over :) Can you two do this forever and always. I love the relationship, the discovery, the poetry, and the humor. I am wild about he honest, the openness and the unfolding.

    Thank you for wit and wisdom, joy and laughter and for where you take a girl….into the land of poetry.

  2. This experiment really is all about love. Talking poetry with Megan has only deepened my friendship with her.

    And she’s got me (sometimes) reading two or three poems a day–she sometimes assigns optional extracurricular reading.

    No comment on whether or not I’ve started my own poetry scrapbook :)

  3. It is wonderful to read how your exchanges are changing how you both think about the poems you’re experiencing. Good poems never leave you.

  4. The photo is perfect for this.

  5. Heather Eure says:

    Your words and photo have exposed an area of my life clearly lacking in rockets and helmets. I need a poetry buddy.

  6. Ann Kroeker says:

    Megan, can you tell us more about the poetry scrapbook? What do you put in it other than the poems?

    Also, I saw this book by Robert Pinsky, and it sort of sounded like having a poetry buddy when you can’t find one in real life:

    • Hi, Ann! Mostly, it’s just poems I like, poems that seem written just for me, just for this moment. I also include quotes about writing. Sometimes a string of quotes from a book I love. Each year when I read over all the poems I’ve collected, it’s like a commentary on my life for that year. I have them now going back to 2002.

      • Ann Kroeker says:

        A commentary on your life, based on the words that have stood out. I like that. Reminds me of a Commonplace Book.

        Thanks for sharing the details, Megan.

        • A Commonplace Book? Do tell, Ann. And Megan? I love the idea of a poetry scrapbook! I’ve been doing sheets of ‘memorable quotes’ since I retired and I’ve got so many pages, I’m overwhelmed! I’m on edition 5 ( I try to stop them at about 20-25 pages. There are a few poems in there, too. LOVE the exchanges between you both. Thanks for giving us a glimpse.

          • Ann Kroeker says:

            Diana, it sounds like you’re keeping a Commonplace Book? It’s like an old-fashioned diary/scrapbook in which people would copy into a notebook anything that caught their fancy: quotes, measurement, interesting facts, poetry, etc.–anything that they wanted to preserve.

  7. Donna says:

    This is so important… having a “buddy”. I have a writing buddy. She is invaluable to me.

  8. Megan, I love the space you are giving Nancy to explore. Simply being honest and not trying to make more of poetry than it need be (something unreachable, really). But at the same time, letting it be exactly what it can be.


  9. Enjoyed reading what the two of you have been up to! Visiting Amber….oh, that was really something! I read it several times and have shared it.

    I especially like, Megan, how a piece you didn’t consider a keeper ended up being so much more. Love that!


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