"I have never solved a Rubix cube. I cannot recognize the appropriate moment to give up."
-Sabrina Benaim of the Toronto Poetry Slam
I haven’t given you very many writing prompts this summer. I was in Costa Rica and California and stuff. So on that note, here’s a prompt for all the travelers and movers.
1. Make a list of all the places you have lived.
2. Next to each place, write a body part you left in that place. You can go concrete or abstract: your fingernails, ears, appendix, driver’s license, placenta, chicken pox, kneecaps, innocence (ugh, the cliche!).
3. Two options here: make a list poem of all your missing body parts. Or, focus on just one of these: “my third eye fell off in New Hampshire, rolled all the way to Vermont, and now a piece of me lives somewhere I have never been, never wanted to go, may never get around to going back to collect.”
4. Now go, write!
alternate names for black boys
by Danez Smith
1. smoke above the burning bush
2. archnemesis of summer night
3. first son of soil
4. coal awaiting spark & wind
5. guilty until proven dead
6. oil heavy starlight
7. monster until proven ghost
9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath
As the world watched the tumultuous events in Ferguson, Mo., over the last week, a new hashtag was born: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. The meme was photographic: what images would the media use if I died? But the question, at its heart, was one of naming.
Kid or criminal? Victim or threat? Brother, son, friend — or thug? One of us, or other?
Danez Smith grapples with the power of naming, and the powerlessness of being named, in this poem. Poetry Magazine tweeted it out earlier today, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
What else to say?
your stomach shrinks and you get full quickly.
It’s the same way with your heart.
Team Mental Graffiti representing at NPS. This is our group piece.
vandalism, what is a child’s
name on a tombstone?
Yes, I was at NPS in Oakland. No, I didn’t blog a single word last week—sometimes I can’t live and live-update at the same time. God bless the ones who can. There were plenty of people who gave awesome (and sarcastic) updates during the week.
I have little to say about the week. NPS is always an emotional trip for me.
But here’s one thing that gets me about the poetry community: you get a bunch of poets together, sometimes the best description of them comes from the pop-Evangelical colloquialism, “they just love on each other.” They do. Poets build up like no one else. But other times, they at each others’ throats. They are so down on each other, it’s an economy of scarcity: everybody trying to steal someone else’s love to get more of their own. This week was both sides of the coin.
They call it a “poetry family.” Families can be petty. They can also be salvation. So, take the week for the gift it was, even if it was a small one. Families are complicated. I have nothing but love for everyone—‘cause I just can’t face making room for anything else.
There will be lots of poems and videos and quotes and photos from NPS coming up soon—stay tuned.