&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.

 

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&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!

 

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&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.

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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.

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jessica Care moore’s newest book centers around a demand: “We Want Our Bodies Back,” in which she names the ways in which Black women’s bodies have historically and are currently coopted, abused and degraded. She names slavery, the disappearance of Black girls, the wanton murder of Black women’s families as specific injustices enacted on her as a Black woman and the poem is a demand that these be acknowledged and remedied. Write a poem in which you call out a specific injustice — name its roots, its faces, its manifestations, its harms — and then demand the change that you believe would effect justice and repair.


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Matthew Shenoda’s latest collection of poems  Tahrir Suite, takes the contemporary event of the Egyptian Revolution and recasts it in an epic, mythological light by casting two figures, Isis and Tekla, as epic subjects. Write a poem that brings a myth into a contemporary moment or that elevates a contemporary moment  to the mythic sphere.


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Whether it is the secrets buried below silences, the archetypes animating her muses or the histories of Black women entombed in willful or innocuous amnesia, a key poetic concern in Dominique Christina’s work is using language as a tool to unearth what needs to be brought back to light and memory. What has been buried in you? Whose bones would you unearth and re-flesh given the means, and why? Imagine the poem a shovel in your hands; find the landscape, the moment; dig.


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Nate Marshall writes from what he knows intimately, whether it be his neighborhood in Chicago– its sounds, smells, characters, seen and unseen markers– using his deep knowledge to interrogate the wider world. In this issue Marshall uses his name as a catalyst to question race, belonging, and America. What questions or possibilities does your name evoke?


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Master of the marriage of form to content, Tyehimba Jess began his journey into dynamic formal structures (see his book Olio)  by trying to write a contrapuntal poem. His work is also deeply invested in the events and unspoken corners of history. Write a contrapuntal poem — two columns of text, printed next to each other, that can be read either down or across — that takes on a piece of history.


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