London, night, train: #ThousandPoemYear Update – Weeks 1 to 4

My name is Joshua Judson and I’m writing 1000 Poems this year.

As part of the challenge, I am going to be blogging weekly about my writing. My process, what it is I’m actually writing as well as updating you on how many poems I’ve actually written to date.

After a bit of toing and froing over whether or not I was going to actually embark on the challenge, I only decided and announced that I was doing it at the very end of January. So this post is a bit of an exception in that it will cover my writing for the whole of January.

I mentioned in my blog that introduced the #ThousandPoemYear challenge, that the point of it was not to write things of outstanding quality, but to enforce an obligation on my lazy self to write. Thus far, this has certainly been the case. I haven’t had chance to fully trawl through everything I wrote in January yet, but I know that the vast majority was not good. Like, at all. And frankly, I’m amazing at how okay I am with that.

I feel liberated. Simply knowing the sheer number of poems I have written over the past month is amazing. This feeling diminished a little once I started the arduous process of typing everything up. Having to revisit the poems soured the taste of job satisfaction and left me feeling a bit down on myself. Nothing a reminder that it’s a numbers game couldn’t fix!

As far as the content of the poems, I have put everything I’ve written in January into Wordle, a free word cloud generator. How it works is that you input some text and it ‘weights’ the most commonly recurring words in a nifty bit of artwork. It’s something we used to use in my time at Mouthy Poets and it felt like a useful tool for this blog, so that I could visually represent what I’ve been writing about without posting swathes of bad or unfinished poetry.

Here’s what the word cloud for January looks like:january-writing-cloud As you can see, the heaviest emphasis is on the words trainLondon, with honourable mentions to waytimenext and feel.

But let’s unpack those first two – train and London.

As I said earlier, a big driver behind the #ThousandPoemYear challenge is the desire to enforce regularity and obligation – a more robust writing practise. With this in mind, I’ve been very concerned with filling what I think of as ‘dead time’ – those bits of time that don’t seem significant enough to fill with meaningful tasks. The kind of time you’d usually scroll down Facebook on your phone. We’re talking about travel, time sat waiting for friends to show up, waiting for class to start at uni. These bit of time are valuable for me. One of the lies I tell myself is that I don’t write because I don’t have time. I do have time, I just don’t use it well enough. This is why the word train is the most prominent on the word cloud. In my mind, it feels like I’ve done most of my writing in the past month on trains.
Often, this has led to what I think are some quite interesting processes and techniques, which I plan to write about in a later blog.

London. It’s big, it’s a bit grim, but we all love it (sometimes at least). As someone not from round here, especially as someone getting used to being in London again after spending Christmas at home in Notts, ‘Londonness’ has been on my mind a lot.
When you’re a kid and you come to London for a day or two, it feels so massive. So alien, so other. The Tube is a big deal. You can’t wrap your head around it. I realised part way through my first year at uni here that I didn’t get that buzz any more. It’s to be expected, of course, after long enough anywhere it becomes normal to you. But the thing is, London still isn’t quite normal to me. I’m used to it, but it’s not normal.
It sort of reminds me of how dolls are so creepy to us; how they resemble humans so closely without ever being really human. The way they’re ever so slightly off is what makes us uncomfortable. That’s what London is like for me. So much is there: I have work to do, I have friends – but there’s something not quite there and I don’t know what it is. This results in feeling very other in London sometimes. I’m not sure I’ll ever be properly used to it, but maybe continuing to write about it will help?


I’m currently in the process of cataloguing my writing for the month, and I plan to release a later blog breaking down what forms I’ve been exploring.


Thanks for reading this first update blog of the challenge. I don’t quite know what these look like yet, so if there’s anything you want to know, anything you’re curious about that didn’t get mentioned here, please do leave a comment and let me know. I’d better get back to writing. Februarys target is 75 poems, I’m going to go chip away at that.

In a bit,

Joshua Judson x


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