Friday, October 1, 2010

Elizabeth Alexander & Writing Prompt

It was a gift to hear Elizabeth Alexander read poetry and answer questions at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. She did read the famous inaugural poem Praise Song for the Day, as well as new poems. Some of her new poems include Ars Poeticas, which are traditionally poems written about the process of writing and poetry. In effect, an Ars Poetica is almost a love or praise song for writing. Alexander changed the form a bit, and read a few that were written to other ideas, like that of living. Perhaps the ideas are more similar than we'd originally guess?

When answering a question about how to fit writing into a busy life, Alexander said that she “walks around with a bubble for poetry.” She reminded the audience that we can always attend to our writing practice, even when we are working on something else (or many other things.) She spoke of of Lucille Clifton who said to “listen for poetry. The life around you is the stuff of poetry.”

For today’s writing prompt, let’s write a love poem. Of course, perhaps other than writing something humorous, there is nothing harder than writing a sincere, not overly sentimental, vision of love. I encourage you to re-read Alexander’s inaugural poem, with its many images of human intimacy and tenderness, and offer the reader an image of love. It doesn’t have to include how love makes you feel, perhaps that will be clear enough in the image, but rather show the reader love. Is it that keychain someone gave to you? Is it the way your child’s hand curls when she sleeps? Is it the wind brushing past the trees that have already lost their leaves? Focus on the images.

Will you share your writing in the Comments section below?

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