Why write, well attempt to write, 10,000 poems?
It is a bit of mathematics, a bit of a long bet, and thousands of words. The long bet is that if I keep it up, I will keep my increased risk of cognitive decline (due to ageing & life’s varied complications) at a tidy distance.
To date (October 2023), I have written over 2,700 poems — all of them posted online at www.mikebellpoems.com— which also means they are not allowed to be entered for most poetry publications or awards.
A few have been published, in the UK and USA, in a national anthology, and that ‘glow’ of recognition is a welcome warmth in my belly (sadly not my wallet — poetry is written by people who do not expect to eat well). I design maps & shows to make the cash!
If I hit my 10,000th poem — around the age of 85 (at my current rate of about one poem a day) — I will have kept my brain in order and my faculties in fine fettle — and, in the process, written over 750,000 words. There may also be one or two decent poems out of it all.
What has surprised me is that this project has been an immediate form of therapy for me, rather than ‘just’ a long-term way of maintaining my acuity. The past few years have been a pretty dark phase of my life — from my half-diagnosis with half a long-term thing to consider, to now living alone — for the first time in over two decades. But coming out the other side of it all I have a new found excitment & joy in the moment!
My commitment to producing at least one poem a day is an almost bloodless form of trepanning — letting out rather than letting in. Having started my poetry ‘mind games’ on 5th November 2015, I have looked down a few barrels personally and watched the world change through distorting Twitter and Facebook varifocal lenses. My daily real echo chamber has only one voice in it — mine.
Being a solitary freelance designer —www.freelancevisuals.co.uk— means I have time and reflection, between my corporate briefs, to write and to rest.
During lockdown, my show work evaporated so I started designing maps – www.mikebellmaps.com – and continue to produce these tube maps of bands, plot lines, and facts to a growing audience.
I will consider myself very fortunate if I can keep my mind straight, and my pain below Level 8, until I fall off my perch crying like Joshua —‘I am this day 85 years old’— then I shall land on the earth a happy finished soul.
So stay tuned —www.mikebellpoems.com— and we shall carry on this game until the glorious 10,000th verse has a full stop.