This prompt was my first of the poetry season and the project of writing poems every day based on prompts from various poetry groups. I joined these groups (some with closed membership like Dirty Thirty and Poem A Day; some with open like Nahaiwrimo) with the intent of reintroducing myself to poetry community and the collective push (competition? support?) as a reinvestment in myself as a poet. The first group, first prompt nearly knocked me off my resolve.
The poem galvanized me but the prompt (I won’t share here) squicked and enraged me. It seemed to me particularly ugly to ignore the poet’s vulnerability and her unique experience “nonwhite and a woman” and say how can I make that about me (in this case me being 500 group members of which the predominant number would be likely white and nonwoman). I considered titling my poem “Your Poetry Prompt is a Microaggression.” I wrote a rant which I chose not to add as a comment to the group which I had just joined because 1) I would get myself booted out on the first day and 2) it would only have spawned virulent denials each more racist than the next and how would that have served the nonwhite members of the group who had come also looking for community and inspiration.
*here, I stop to give myself an ally cookie*
4/1 (from dirty thirty) “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
Check out the poetry foundation link above for the gorgeous audio of Clifton reading the poem herself.
Instead of following the prompt as suggested and co-opting Clinton’s adversity as a lens on my own specialness (and I am, dear reader, not without circumstances or peoples I am grateful to have survived) I chose to take her at her word and celebrate HER survival. My poem is part rage, part party. I will not print it here because part of my April commitment is to take my poetic career more seriously and thus find publication homes for these poems.
or you can check back here for updates. I intend (oh yes, my beloveds, the dreaded maybe of the word intend –the brick in every hell-road) to post a link to wherever it ends up published and also to post an audiofile from soundcloud or reverbnation or youtube. All places you can find my poetic self lurking and sometimes accomplishing stuff.
Here’s a snip –just enough to keep publishers from objecting that I’ve sold them used goods. (They get so fussy about their first publishing rights.)
I walked here past the days and months and years, alleyways and rooms, filled with the girls not as fast or smart or lucky. Celebrate it wasn’t me caught by cops, cudgels or clans. But in the joyous song, let a sour note creep in — it will creep whether you let it or not.