While switching out bookcases this week, I found a pile of books that I had been missing since February. Many were books that I have already done interactions for, but one was Roll Deep by Major Jackson. As I think I'm ready to start reading poetry again, after a several month long hiatus, I decided to read this, simply as it was on the top of the pile.
I'll probably do a few different types of interactions with it in the next few days, but I figured I'd start by making a series of prompts that each poem inspired.
1. Reverse Voyage. Tell a story about the place where you live that mainly focuses on the architecture and geography. Not just rolling hills, cracked pavement, the ocean. Tell us about the stores that have disappeared, the ugly yellow fence that is older than you are, the faded yellow lines in the middle of your street. What does the physical landscape tell you about what it's like to live there right now?
2. Greece. Give us the opposite of homesickness. Show your reader a place that is important to you by intertwining at least one piece of historical importance of the area, one specific memory involving you and another person (if there was one) while you were there, and a sprinkling of that time's meteorology (was it raining? were there birds? could you smell trees or the local capitalism?).
3. Spain. Layers of morning pastries flaked gingerly/then fell, soft as vowels, on a china plate. Get your simile on and describe a conversation using food imagery. It can be a disccussion that changed your life, or it can be about how bored you were on a first date. Make us hungry with the wish that we'd been there, or let us journey into the meal with you to escape the conversation.
4. Brazil. How we move in our day to day lives is our own form of dance and martial art. Tell us about a particular motion you do (if you can't think of one, ask someone who would notice this sort of thing about you to help you out) and how it signifies your relationship to your everyday life.
5. Kenya. Write a security briefing about part of your day. Identify the threats around you, and how you intend to avoid them, imagine which information you contain is most likely to be targeted for espionage, and point out any suspicious behavior you encounter.
6. Italy. If someone were dreaming of you, what would they be dreaming about?
7. On Disappearing. If you were to suddenly disappear from the place where you lived, how do you think people would speculate your absence? Would the place be significantly different without you? Would anyone figure out where you'd gone?
8. Mighty Pawns. Tell us about someone you know who is an expert at something not enough people value. Maybe they can solve a Rubik's Cube in under a minute. Maybe they make the best mashed potatoes ever eaten. Tell us about them, why their skill is so impressive to you, and why they would still be impressive even if they lacked that skill.
9. Dreams Of Permancence. Walk around your building or neighborhood until you discover something you haven't noticed before. Tell us about it in vivid detail.
10. Stand Your Ground. I'm not usually a fan of poems that address the nation or city or neighborhood we are from. Too often, they get so large of scope that they feel generic and trite. But you're a good writer. You can handle it. Address a poem to a place that is important to you. Tell it some things you appreciate, and some things it needs to repair. Bonus points if you can make it a Golden Shovel.
11. Thinking Of Our Shame At The Gas Pump. What would you like your last words to be? What do you think that says about your humanity?
12. OK Cupid. Get yourself blissfully lost in a simile/list poem. Make a statement about how one thing is like another thing and keep chaining similes until you feel like you're finished. Then continue for five or six more similes.
13. Calypso's Magical Garden. If you don't own your dreams, who does? What are they doing with them?
14. Aubade. What things do you wish you could be doing rather than trying, and failing, to sleep?
15. Special Needs. In the mornings, I rub my hands together/back and forth summoning the angels/away from the orthodoxy of façades. Damn. Tell us about a morning ritual you have, what it means to you, and what happens if you are unable to complete it.
16. Inscription. Imagine the object of you affection is a place, a ritual, a type of clothing, a meal, a time of day. Describe them only in metaphor. Don't tell us how you feel about them. Let the images do your emotional storytelling for you.
17. Night Steps. If you've never spent some time staring out a window at night, then maybe poetry isn't for you. What have you seen or not seen when zoning out, your eyes pointed at the outside world.
18. Cries & Whispers. Over the course of a day, write down three things that you're fairly sure you'd forget if you didn't write them down. Let that list sit somewhere for a week. Now come back and tell us whether or not those three things were important, and why.
19. On Cocoa Beach. Revisit your relationship to a place you hate or fear. Is the emotion you've tied to that place rational? Do you think you could overcome it? Why should you bother trying to overcome it when there other, less draining, places to go?
20. Ode To Mount Philo. How you travel through a place shows us a lot about your relationship to a place. If you take a subway through the city, you're going to have a different experience than walking, riding a bicycle, or driving a car. Take us on a small journey through a place that's important to you, using two different modes of transport.
21. Enchanters Of Addison County. Show us a place that's important to you as it travels through seasons. Even if you live somewhere equatorial, there is a difference between the winter and the summer. Physically, what changes about the important place? Are there different people there for different seasons? Does the way you feel about the place change as well?
22. Self-Portrait As The Allegory Of Poetry. What's in your trash can right now? Why?
23. Pathetic Fallacy. Ask a series of spiritual questions of yourself. Don't answer them.
24. Fundamentals. Write a three stanza poem where the first stanza is focused on something aural, the second stanza deals with how something is named, and the third stanza incorporates camera angles and perspective.
25. Canon Of Proportions. Tell us about a famous person born before the 20th century, and how they would interact with a piece of modern technology. For example, Jackson mentions that Thomas Jefferson was never a frequent flier. Tell us about Napoleon's arguments over fraudulent credit card charges, what games Mahatma Gandhi plays on his cell phone.
26. Energy Loves Here. Find an album or playlist that's important to you, and freewrite to it, occasionally making reference to images or lyrics that appear in the music.
27. Why I Write Poety. Let's assume you've already written a poem about why you write poety. Write a poem about what's keeping you from writing poetry more often.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.