Both Miller’s recent poetry collections, In Nearby Bushes and The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, feature meditations on the names of places in his home country of Jamaica. The poems tell stories — real and imagined — of how the place names came to be, how their meanings have evolved, and consider the idea of place itself. Think of a place that has meaning to you — tell or invent its story, and write towards discovery of what meaning(s) that place might hold.
Booker’s new project engages the King James bible — a popular version of the text in the Caribbean — in the setting of the people, customs, diction and history of her Caribbean community. This prompt invites you to do the same: which biblical character can you imagine as a citizen of your city/country. How would their story change or be understood differently in that context? What would happen if a bible story occurred in your hometown?
Formal experimentation is a hallmark of Khadijah Queen’s work. In her latest collection, Anodyne, Queen has several “grid poems.” In her interview, Queen speaks to the value of play and pleasure says simply, “I’d never written a grid poem and I just wanted to try it.” The prompt here is to try one, too!
A hallmark of Tim Seibles’ poetry is its sense of play. The humor, mischief, delight, and pleasure that run through his poems perform the work of reminding us why it is wonderful to be human beings alive in this world, even as they acknowledge the challenges we face. This prompt invites you write a poem that teases, flirts, tells a joke or laughs out loud — a poem that makes you smile as you write it and makes your reader smile, too. Don’t be afraid to be the class clown!
Amanda Johnston is the creator of the genesis — a poetic form comprised of seven poems. Five individual poems in adjoining columns create a sixth poem when read from left to right. Each individual poem also contains italicized words/lines which create the final seventh poem when read independently. The poem must move chronologically through time.
Johnston remixes extant poetic forms such as erasures and the contrapuntal to create the genesis. The challenge: Write a genesis OR mix two forms together to create a new form.
In his introduction to his latest book, I Want To See My Skirt, A. Van Jordan writes “I firmly believe that poetry is a visual art form, so there’s a natural discourse between poetry and film.” In his interview from this issue, Jordan discusses the ongoing conversations with his favorite movies that ultimately became his collection of poems, The Cinaste. Using Jordan’s work as your inspiration, write a poem in conversation with a film. Be inventive: pan out where there’s a closeup, edit the ending, direct the actors differently, focus on a minor character, set the film in your neighborhood or bring one of its characters to dinner at your home. And….action!
In art, intensity is defined as the saturation of color, the vividness of its hue. Intensity–that property of vividness that glimmers–is one of the hallmarks of Cassells’ poetry, which is to say that the images are layered, multi-dimensional and, well, intense. See this excerpt from his poem ” The Spirit of Slave Catchers are Still Walking Among Us” :
Robust enforcers insisting dark bodies remain
Ghetto-bound, earthbound, Cradle-still in velvet-lined,
Elm or alder wood coffins—
As scholar-poet Roger Reeves points out, one of the tools Cassells employs in his work is the hyphen, which allows him to intensify his descriptors (i.e. “greed-swayed / kings of sugar”). Write a glitter-spun poem, with intensity as your primary goal and the hyphen as your primary instrument.
In her interview with the editor, Jaki Shelton Green, says she asks people to find the poetry in the things they encounter every day: “Do you hear poetry in the rain? Do you hear a story, do you hear the poem in it? When you’re baking, can you hear the poem in it? When you’re making a cake, can you hear the poem in it?” Think of the most mundane task of your everyday life. Then find the poem in it and write it!
Brenda Marie Osbey says, “I have this idea that every city has its own sound, and you know your city by a certain blend or certain cacophony of sound.” She gives the example of her city of New Orleans, saying, “It’s almost impossible to have either quiet or solitude in New Orleans, because people won’t let you. If you’re alone, people will come and visit you, especially if you say you want to be alone. Then they’ll say, Oh my goodness something is wrong, let me go and see about her, and then beat on the side of the house and say I know you’re in there … The other thing is that there’s always music, and when there isn’t music there are kinds of music, like the sounds of the street cars running on the tracks or the twelve noon lunch whistle that used to sound when I was a child, to call workmen in to into their lunches.”
Write a poem that celebrates the sounds of your city.
Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Ego Tripping” is one of the most famous of her works. Scholar Howard Rambsy II describes the importance of the poem to the Black community thus: “The poem was produced in the context of the Black Arts Movement, and as a result it contains hall-marks of the movement, such a celebrations of Africa and Black history and affirmations of Black pride and self determination.”
“Ego Tripping,” is an exercise in self-confidence and self-definition. Write a poem that trumpets your strengths, claims all of your amazing, and celebrates your unique and inimitable self.