I’ve been reading a lot lately and wanted to highlight a book everyday this week that I feel like should be on everyones radar. The first one is:
Allegiance by Francine J Harris
“but, i am not all guilty.
nor can i be all sea.
this is just
a bone song. one we can both whistle along the skin to
in a skulk drag, down
through the rift.”
- From Sift
Francine Harris can write ya’ll. She does so with unbelievable honesty, not afraid to dip into the gritty and vulgar, using everyday language in a surprisingly gut wrenching poetic way. Her poems are incredibly accessible and make you feel very alive, very human, and very woman.
“here comes the mailman.
fuck his footsteps. “
- From There is always someone, that’s the problem.
Its like- what??? Who has the balls to say that? Most of the poems in this book are short and incredibly effective. At times Francine dips into a more prosaic and narrative voice, while still keeping the poetic imagery very much alive throughout. Throughout the book she also experiments with form and approach to storytelling, which keeps the reader engaged and challenged the whole time.
I am so sorry that I’ve been slacking! This month has already proven to be incredibly busy. But, it’s national poetry month!! Which means, I’m going to bump up how many times that I am posting prompts to help out my people who are doing their 30/30s…
Some of these prompts are going to be really whacky, some are going to be simple and straightforward.
This one is going to be a pretty whacky one, so get ready! Do each step as you read it, don’t jump ahead!!
(I mean it.)
1. Write what you know to be true. The truest thing you know.
2. Convince the world of this truth.
3. Now, a light has come out of nowhere and you are suddenly and completely fucked in the head. Your mind is altered. The only thing you know is whatever truth you knew before is wrong. You know have to convince the world of this. Do it.
4. You have to build a machine that proves your untruth. This is the only thing that will save the world. Build it.
5. The machine opens its mouth and an alien comes out. What does it say?
6. The light comes back again. Its blinding, and it spills everywhere. You’re walking in it now. What happens?
“You Must Stay Drunk On Writing So That Reality Cannot Destroy You.”
Sorry for the delay in publishing a writing prompt! A lot of my writing veers on what I think people consider as “Magical Realism”, though I know that term is really weighted and complicated. Here is a prompt that I used during a writing workshop I led at Brown called “Drunk on Writing,” after the Bradbury quote above.
1. Write a list of things you remember vividly, but could not have possibly happened.
2. Pick one of this situations, and write a list of images in that situation.
3. Take one of those images and elaborate, pushing past the logic of the original situation if you must.
4. Use this language to speak about your memory, personifying the impossible as truth.
Let me know how this goes!
Here is the prompt for this week:
1. Write a list of things that you have heard people say to you in your life.
2. Free write on each item you wrote about how it made you feel to have someone say that to you.
3. Read Jamaica Kincaid’s poem “Girl”
4. Using the form of the poem as a model, write your own instructional poem about your life.
A lot of people have asked me recently how to be ‘un-gaurded’ in writing, how to allow yourself to reach a certain vulnerability in writing and performance that rings emotionally true. I love deeply personal writing: both hearing it and writing it myself, partially because I feel like I never really know about how I feel about something unless I write about it.
So here is part of a workshop that I did with the amazingly talented playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, (author of The Motherfucker with the Hat). Stephen had us all write on this, and it was a very challenging exercise that got people writing from a really emotional place.
STEP ONE: Make a list of people that you have something that is unresolved with. Someone who you need to say something to but haven’t yet, or feel like you can’t.
STEP TWO: Pick someone from that list, and write them a letter. Let your mind go wherever you want, and know that they will never read it.
DONT GO READ STEP THREE UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED STEP TWO!!!
STEP THREE: Now, write another letter responding to the letter you just wrote. It has to be in their voice, back to you. They have to respond. (None of this ‘oh, but he’s a dick and would never respond.’ MAKE them respond.)
STEP FOUR: Read both letters together.
Hope this helps!
First, read “Apparatus for the Inscription of a Falling Body” by Thalia Field. (found here: here ). If you can’t access the article or are too lazy to read, think hard about the title.
Take a verb (such as falling) and think about the philosophy behind it. If it were a theory, what would it be? What would be its properties? How would you prove its truth?
Now, insert the philosophized verb into an unusual or sterile context. Spend an entire day musing about it, writing an observation or a thought every ten to twenty minutes (yes! this is a time commitment!) Time stamp the progress.
Yay! Let me know how this goes
Franny Choi and I are going to go on a BOMB week-long tour of the East Coast in March. We’ll be blowing through New York, Boston, New Jersey, and Providence from March 15-24th. Let me know if you want us to come through your spot or kick it with us!
Here is a clip of me performing a new poem called “Kinds of Light.” Hope you enjoy!
Muzzle Magazine just released a brand new issue of their fantastic Magazine, edited by playwright Idris Goodwin! Idris advocates for plays and hybrid texts being published alongside poems because of the way different artistic disciplines inform each other. My poem/essay “Forgiveness” is in here. My fellow collective members Jamila Woods and Nate Marshall are also published here. Make sure you check out Rachel McKibben’s work and Portia Elan’s poem. Happy reading, and thanks to the editor Stevie Edwards for making this happen!
On Saturday December 1st my collective will be coming to Chicago for an intensive poetry retreat. We will have a performance too! The performance will be on Saturday with doors opening at 7:30pm and the show at 8pm at Young Chicago Authors!! The show is completely free. The collective includes Nate Marshall, Jamila Woods, Franny Choi, Danez Smith, and Aaron Samuels. They are all incredible poets you don’t want to miss. Please come!