One prompt I’ve shared recently is based off Peter E. Murphy’s poem, Doing Time, from a recent issue of Rattle. This is a poem that’s impossible for me to read without getting tears in my eyes. It offers us a frank look at teaching and the power of poetry to inspire and educate, even when administration and other systems put obstacles in our way. The idea I pulled from this poem is to write about a time when you let go of your expectations and took an action based on your gut feelings. What happened to you and those around you? You can also choose to write of a time when you worked against oppression of some kind, perhaps in an underground way. How will you use poetry to bring power to your people?
Today, I did a series of writing exercises with Jersey City Writers based on writing after loss. I’m sharing the essence of them with you here. Don’t skip reading the poem suggested beforehand—I find reading good poetry before writing it is often like “priming the pump,” it helps your creative juices flow, and your writing will be stronger from the influence of the masters.
Read Natasha Trethewey’s After Your Death, included in The Art of Losing, edited by Kevin Young, and then try think about a serious loss you’ve experienced. Can you write a series of metaphors (try to get to ten!) expressing how you feel about it? Once you’ve gotten to ten, go back to one of the metaphors, and write more about it—go deeper into the metaphor.
Read Hot by Craig Arnold, one of my favorite poems of all time. Then, think of someone whom you’ve lost, but not on account of death—someone you’ve lost to something else, such as addiction, or the end of a relationship, or perhaps to Alzheimer’s. For bonus points, try to write the poem in rhyming couplets, modeled after Craig Arnold’s work.
Read Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, then think about an object from your childhood that you’ve lost, and write about that. Make sure to decide whether the speaker is still a child or if the speaker is an adult looking back… there will likely be differences in how speakers of different ages would express the loss.
Read Mark Strand’s poem, Elegy for My Father, also available in The Art of Losing, and look especially at section 2, Answers. Try writing a poem in which you have a conversation with someone who’s passed away.
I’m thrilled to have a poem published in the latest issue of Monstering, alongside the work of many others, including the poet Ada Limón. I’m especially excited about the audio work of Katarina Scaife, who brings my poem to life and makes it more accessible to disabled readers.
This Saturday for Jersey City Writers, I hosted a poetry workshop where we used a submission call from the literary magazine Territory as a prompt. They have upcoming issues with the themes Twins and Alaska. Some past issues include fascinating work from Dan Beachy-Quick and Jenny Xie.
Excited to spread the word about the next literary reading of Jersey City Writers. The competition this time was to write about Inclusion in Science Fiction, and my short fiction piece Duster is among the selected works. Books by Jersey City Writers will be for sale as well. Hope to see you there!
Strangers in Strange Lands
Wed, Aug 30, 2017 @ 6:30pm
Barrow Mansion, 83 Wayne St, Jersey City, NJ 07302
Featured works include:
Ancient Language by Joe Del Priore
Another World by Jessica Serrano
Slow Drip by Ed Stone French
The Final Mystery by Kevin Singer
The End of the World by Ray Norman
Heaven is a Place on Mars by Stephen Weber
Duster by Sarah T. Jewell
Consuela’s Quest by Beth Bentley
Exodus by Nick Stone