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8/30: The God-slodge // Midland (Rockin’ Rodeo)

Today’s exercise: “The God-slodge” — Poems of faith or anti-faith or an ambiguous relationship to fate.

Write a poem to God. Make it a tirade, a complaint, a request.
Write a poem as God. Let God explain, refute, deny, defend.
Write a poem in which God is a traffic cop, a new anchor, a porn star, a grocery clerk.

Alright, the prompt is a little cheesy, a little trite, but, remember to avoid sentimentality, canned phrases, and show over telling—use congrete imagery to paint the edges of what is intangible, rather than abstractions. :) Poetry or prose.

Part of 30/30 and my own Prompt A Day for National Poetry Month. Image: gilad


8/30: Midland (Rockin’ Rodeo)

could use more light and someone
to buy my next round or set me up
real nice, ranchhouse out in
gentrified Marfa.

triple turn and arm over arm loop,
all the things I’ve gotten good at
contained in one bar. My dad’s
an alcoholic, so. He just got
arrested for an accident near
the train tracks where he left
the scene.
Great way to pick up
any girl, I thought, and then
they’re dancing. 

Ann Arbor Festifools 2014.

7/30: Oh no you didn’t! // Status II

Today’s (yesterday’s!) exercise: Poetic Rebuttal. Similar but iterating along the lines of "The Poet Thief," this is a response poem. A poetic rebuttal. Find a favourite poem (it must be a published, contemporary poet for this) or one you feel incensed by. Respond to it, and then take it three steps further into your own agenda. Try to avoid sentimentality, and don’t be afraid to put fire to things, or perhaps, things to the fire. 

An example: Charles Harper Webb’s ”Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam Down” (in response to Suzanne Paola’s “Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor”) from Best American Poetry 2006. (I’ll post it and update with link after this posts). Of “Prayer,” Webb writes:

"I read Suzanne Paola’s ‘Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor’ soon after the birth of my son. Being a natural contrarian, I began my own Prayer in simple opposition: You want to seal the wombdoor? Fine! I want to open it up. But the poem quickly grew into a celebration of the selfish human drive to reproduce and live on our unconscious, hence indifferent, Earth. As a new parent, I felt a deepened connection with my own parents—who couldn’t easily have sealed up Mom’s womb door even if they’d wanted to—and of their parents, and theirs, and theirs… I found myself saying things that I, while childless by choice, never thought I’d ever say. If the sense of fun, excitement and energy I felt giving birth to this poem comes through to the reader, it may become another argument for the worthiness-to-live of humankind." 

Poetry or prose.

Part of 30/30 and my own Prompt A Day for National Poetry Month. Image: ArtOfTheAnkh


7/30: Status II 

"Teen Girls, I need you to wear your flippy skirt 
with some attitude before I pin you. 
If you autocorrect flippy to floppy 
one more time, I will cut you. That’s right, 
I AM INSANE TONIGHT. — but trust me,
your outfit will look better 
if you wear it like a bitch.

Why don’t you do this thing
you’re so good at? You could
totally do porn. Isn’t he your
boyfriend? Why do you get so
worked up?

… “

I’m writing a Facebook opera? Or something. And so there are these little status bits and pieces, maybe soliloquies, that just kinda keep popping up.

Poetic Rebuttal: Suzanne Paola and Charles Webb

Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor  - Suzanne Paola

Because we need to remember
that memory will end, let the womb remain
untouched. Its walls
an image of the earth without us—
No form sharpening, no clutter
of umbilicus,
no fingers diverging from their webs.

Generation is an argument.
It says
my finitude is infinity: I will shape from it
another & another.

& these will go on, like numbers
that through division can continue, if a little less
each time—

But infants press
against two oblivions: the one before,
the one after. And one being
can never outrun two deaths.

Let’s celebrate the emptiness, the other place.
Let’s create, like God, both void & image.
And carry our end
as we’ve carried ourselves, in imagination—in film & theater,
statues & mirrors, the long gaze
at our own face.

Look in. See the earth
greening again: closing around
the long bright scars
of cities. When plastic’s
rare, and honorable fossil. All glass
finally polished in the sea.

When the reign of the nude skin, the opposable thumb’s
over, when the argument runs
whether bones should crouch or stand in the Hall of Humans.

Will it be crows who inherit? With towns
in treetops, winds holy, beauty a pure dull black.
Or beetles, asking themselves
how we ever made love, we all gravity & heavy limbs.

Maybe by then the fumes of the toilet-tissue plant
will have risen past the atmosphere, & whales will be back, 25
thick as cattle, with a dim mythology of bloody ships.

Let’s insist on contingency, on seeing
our earth in our dream, false
& mutable: blacktopped, split
through the geometries of building & plowing, daylight
dragged into nighttime in small glass bowls.

Let my body stay as it is, saying
we have done our damage, all
in the name of imagination: let something else
through its mind, mar
the surfaces of things.

"Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor," by Suzanne Paola
(in Bardo. University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)


Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam DownCharles Harper Webb

Because we know our lives will end,
Let the vagina host a huge party, and let the penis come.

Let it come nude, without a raincoat.
Let it come rich, and leave with coffers drained.

Throw the prostate’s floodgates open.
Let sperm crowd the womb full as a World Cup stadium.

Let them flip and wriggle like a mackerel shoal.
Let babies leap into being like atoms after the Big Bang.

Let’s celebrate fullness, roundness, gravidity.
Let’s worship generation—this one,

And the next, and next, forever.
Let’s adore the progression: protozoan to guppy

To salamander to slow loris to Shakespeare.
Forget Caligula. Forget Hitler. Mistakes

Were made. Let’s celebrate our own faces
Grinning back at us across ten thousand years.

Let’s get this straight: Earth doesn’t care if it’s overrun—
If it’s green or brown or black, rain forest, desert, or ice pack.

A paper mill is sweet as lavender to Earth,
Which has no sense of smell, and doesn’t care

If roads gouge it, or industries fume into its air.
Beetles don’t care. Or crows.

Or whales, despite their singing and big brains.
Sure, rabbits feel. Spicebush swallowtails

Feel their proboscides slide into flowers’
Honeypots, which may feel too,

But lack the brains to care. Even if beagles
Are as mournful as they look—

Even if great apes grieve, wage war, catch termites
With twigs, and say in sign language,

"Ca-ca on your head," they still don’t care.
Or if the do—well, join the club. 30

We humans care so much, some of us dub life
A vale of tears, and see heaven as oblivion.

Some pray, for Earth’s sake, not to be reborn.
Wake up! Earth will be charred by the exploding sun,

Blasted to dust, reduced to quarks, and still not care.
If some people enjoy their lives too much

To share, let them not share. If some despise themselves
Too much to reproduce, let them disappear.

If some perceive themselves as a disease, let them
Take the cure, and go extinct. It’s immaterial to Earth.

Let people realize this, or not. Earth doesn’t care.
I do, and celebrate my own fecundity.

I celebrate my wife’s ovaries, her fallopian tubes
Down which, like monthly paychecks,

Golden eggs roll. I celebrate the body’s changing.
(Might as well: it changes anyway.)

I celebrate gestation, water breaking,
The dash to the hospital, the staff descending,

Malpractice polices in hand. I celebrate
Dilation of the cervix, doctors in green scrubs,

And even (since I won’t get one) the episiotomy.
I’ll celebrate my bloody, dripping son, head deformed

By trusting against the world’s door.
Let it open wide for him. Let others make room for him.

Let his imagination shine like God’s.
Let his caring change the face of everything.

"Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam Down," By Charles Harper Webb, In Billy Collins,
ed., The Best American Poetry 2006, New York: Scribner Poetry, 2006

Ann Arbor Festifools 2014.

6/30: Lexical Sets // Maybe It Really Is Maybelline

Today’s exercise: Lexical Sets — something my students and I make use of constantly. For this prompt you will be generating a list of related words, a ‘lexical set.’ Just a list of words that have something in common. Give yourself a subject, be in a place, activity, or a concept, and spend the next 5-10 minutes writing down every word you can think of (straight out of your head write em down) having to do with that subject.

For example:

Flowers: Chrysanthemum, Persimmon, Rose, Tulip, Dandelion, Petal, Stamen, Freesia, lilium parvum, Narcissus

You could also limit to “types of flowers” instead (which would eliminate the “parts of flowers” in the above example. Steer toward words that are exciting, sound interesting, or are very specific.

After you’ve got your lexical set, write a poem or prose piece incorporating as many words as you can, or focus in on one favorite word and generate a new lexical set and write from that. :) You can also trade lexical sets with a friend (a great in-class exercise) to force yourself to work with unfamiliar concepts and new vocabulary.

Part of my Prompt-A-Day and 30/30 for National Poetry Month. 
Image: pinkparis1233



"Maybe It Really Is Maybelline"

** can’t post any of this one! :( If I post part of it it’s basically the whole thing — it’s a conceptual piece, hooray. But it was definitely inspired by the exercises this time, fortuitously! (Just happened to be similar to a lexical set!)

Ann Arbor Festifools!

5/30: Endless Lines // Cradleboard

Write a prose piece or poem of about 30 lines or one longish paragraph, but using only one sentence. With one sentence use enjambment, clauses, parentheticals, parallel structure, or any kind of syntactical structures to keep the sentence moving forward and grammatically correct (yes it will be overwrought, but the changes in clause, commas, should keep it grammatical). This exercise teaches one how to stay flexible with a line and encourages one to be playful about connecting phrases. Poetry or prose.

Part of my Prompt-A-Day and 30/30 for National Poetry Month. Image: AyameFataru

And my 30/30 excerpt from yesterday: Cradleboard

"…We named it, but owned nothing.
What was left us, we carried
as the Longhouse quarreled

its own inheritance, as Sky-
woman still falls. Hold me,
the way I want to be held

down. We carried the children
with their eyes closed, swaddled,
who knew the homelands

only by smell. In the museum,
the old ways are nailed up
and captioned. The death

is not sinister, the life
waxy and posed, leaning
the invisible wind, hunter

who does not yet know
what is lost. My mother
paid good money for good

beading. She says, buy nothing
that is not signed, authenticity
is wampum, purple and white,

wampum, the way I was raised
wampum, too, and wampum,
the plastic wrapping, …”

Goes really well with the new direction of my manuscript. :)

Thanks for tuning in, and consider sharing/reblogging/etc the prompts with your poetically-inclined friends!

Spent the day at the Ann Arbor Festifools, and was amazed at the creativity and exuberance of this amazing city. Can’t wait to share the photos with you all (especially if I figure out how to keep Tumblr/FB from butchering them on upload), and here’s a little sneak peak. And my missing 30/30 posts are in the queue. :)

Just hanging out with my Norwegian. :)

Made a delicious dinner tonight, mushroom ravioli in a mushroom sage cream sauce and a side of deliciously fresh green beans. Today was beautiful, but the Arbor was pretty crowded between game day, Hash Bash, and other sunny Saturday lures.

Dinner tonight will be wonderful. :)

Trying out öggl again, with the new membership option. :)

From The Produce Station on State, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

My found conceptual piece for the week. From University of Michigan’s campus, a pair of lonely carrots sat on a stone wall outside the Union, waiting for their directorial debut.

I did not bring the carrots to the site. They were waiting to be discovered.

Fantastic conceptual/digital pieces by my CW students


I took this assignment in a really different direction. I created a second tumblr page to make it work. It’s still very rough, but I thought I’d share the idea. Heavily influenced by the Kenneth Goldsmith piece we looked at in class

the password is stretch

Amazing. SO impressed. 

Sophie is an interarts performance BFA freshman here at the University of Michigan. :) Lindsey, a comparative lit major, worked on a prezi-poem, which utilizes animation and controlled reveal of language. Sarah developed a guide for How To See Your House On Fire.

Our recent assignments have focused on various aspects and processes of conceptual art / visual poetry / digital and new media. So happy the university lets me design my own course so I could cover this material in a Creative Writing class! Can’t believe what amazing work my students have produced thus far.