BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A WELL-known Donegal journalist has just completed an incredible personal journey writing a poem a day for a full year. When Liam Porter found himself out of work a couple of years ago, he was trying to find ways and means to keep himself busy.
As most people who find themselves unemployed, Liam went through good and bad days and was looking for a way to motivate himself. Having always had an interest in creative writing, the affable Raphoe man decided to set himself the huge challenge of writing a poem a day for the year of 2013.
“I wrote a bit while I was at secondary school and then studied English and History at college but then the creative writing became sporadic.
“I was working as a journalist and editor where you’re writing all the time; it’s a different type of writing, but when you’re sitting down again to write in the evenings, it feels a bit like work.
“My 365 Challenge was part of a personal journey I’ve been on over the past couple of years. I found myself out of work.
“You try and get yourself out and motivated to do different things, but it could be very hard at times. I wrote a humorous online blog for a while, but it’s hard to be funny all the time when you’re not feeling funny.”
“People would say, you meet people and you don’t know what they’re struggling with, I was one of those people, you’re out of work, you’re trying to get work and do different things, and poetry became a way of dealing with being down at times.
“It’s almost a diary of the year, there have been really dark and angry days, poems about things I heard in the news or that were going on around the country, but there are also a lot of happy and fun poems about friends, nights out and inspiration came from everywhere.”
In 2012 Liam participated in Donegal Enterprise Board’s 12-week programme, Discovery Zone, which was aimed at getting experienced trades-people and professionals in Donegal back to work which set him on his path to setting up Liam Porter Media.
Finding himself doing a lot more writing again doing freelance work, public relations, media training and working with schools, Liam decided to set himself a new challenge. “The course gave me renewed confidence and it got me back on track and I started writing more again.
“I made a conscious decision to be publicly out there, announcing that I was going to write a poem a day part of a 365 challenge, and publish them online.
“Honestly, at the start I thought if I get to the end of January I’ll be flying. But I tried not to think about having to do 365 poems, I tried to think of the next day, one more to do, and that kept it manageable, especially towards the end when people were saying ‘you’re nearly finished’, ‘only 30 to go’ and I was thinking ‘how will I write 30 more poems?’.”
Liam said there is enough inspiration around you to write a poem a day, if you just take the time and look for it, but admitted that it wasn’t easy at times.
“Finding the time was one of those things which was part of the challenge; there were mornings where I would get out of bed and write it, and there were occasional nights where I’d be sitting there at 11 thinking ‘What will I write about?’.
“It’s like doing a live radio show every day, it’s not going to be great all the time and there were a couple of times throughout the year where I was thinking ‘this is a chore’ and ‘why am I doing this?’, but they were very few and far between.”
Liam said writing was only part of the overall process. “It’s like writing a song, editing and crafting the words is also part of the process. Sometimes you’ll go back and read something again and change it; that’s something I plan on doing over the next few weeks.
“I mainly set myself this target out of stubbornness, it was more about the writing, than the editing. Over the past few days I have looked back at some of the poems and thought ‘oh my god, seriously?’.
“I would vaguely know what I would have written throughout the year, but there were so many, you forget.
“Reading back on some of them I have been pleasantly surprised, thinking ‘that’s actually, good’ but also ones where I thought ‘why did you publish that’. You’re going to get good and bad,” he said.
Looking back on 365 days of writing poems (and a 366th following the encouragement of family friend Maria Rushe), would Liam do it again?
“If I ever found myself in a situation again, where I wasn’t writing, I would definitely try and do it again. Putting it out there publicly generated a lot of interest.
“One day I forgot to post the links to a poem of the day to Twitter and Facebook and several people got in contact with me asking where it was.
“It made me think, ‘people are really reading these’.
“The amount of people over the year who knew I was doing the challenge, encouraged me and gave me feedback really made it worthwhile,” said Liam.
Log onto http://liamporterpoems.wordpress.com to read Liam Porter’s 366 poems. Follow Liam Porter Media on Facebook and @LiamPort on Twitter.
I stand for a few minutes
It refreshes that picture,
pinned to the back of my mind.
A lovely image,
of summer days
running through barley fields.
Walking for water to the well,
sloshing gulps into my
as we struggled to carry,
the red bucket back.
Sitting on that tiny
my grandfather showing me
how to milk a cow.
The ping of the milk
against the tin bucket,
a sound never to forget.
Down at Davy’s shore,
the Swilly water is still,
and I let my eyes feast
on a flood
of colourful memories.
in my head.
when I close my eyes,
that picture of Croaghan,
is truly vibrant once more…