Part II: Witness: Everyone has a news event that hits them hard. Maybe something that happened close to somewhere you feel home, or maybe a tragedy happened to someone who reminds you of yourself or someone you love. This can be a story you’ve already written about more than you planned, or one you’ve been afraid to write about. Write a poem in any style you choose and write until you have written as much as you can from that angle. Now write it again from a different angle. Keep going until you cannot possibly think of another angle to write from.
This is not a one-day exercise, this can take weeks, months, or years.
How long does it take a city to discover/Grief is a knife.
You cannot love a god/that you fear.
The second section of Williams's Thief Of The Interior is a series of connected poems about the death of Rashawn Brazell. A factual reporting, a poem in the voice of the duffel bag where Brazell's body parts were found, a letter to Rashawn's mother. Williams interacts with the story from an array of angles. It reminded me both of Patricia Smith's Blood Dazzler and the section of her more recent collection, Incendiary Art, that deals with fathers who drown their daughters.
These long form odes to the dead, intertwined with news stories to explain the unpoetic horror that inspired the poems, are emotionally draining in the most necessary ways.
These poems are difficult feats. No one trying to do the above exercise should feel failure or disappointment in not ending up with a long form poem like Williams's or Smith's. If you end up with one short poem or even one good line that you wouldn't have come up with if you hadn't tried to interact with the story from a multitude of angles, then you have succeeded.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.