The randomizer: Choose 9 random words (or, have someone send you 9 words) and write 9 lines of poetry, incorporating one word per line. Try to make the poem not make sense; try to have the poem move through three different emotional registers. Exercise inspired by Tan Lin’s workshop at the Kundiman retreat.
For each day of National Poetry Month one of our fellows will explore the breadth of poetry in three ways: through a question from another fellow, through a poem and through a writing prompt, #writetoday.
Cathy Linh Che asks, In writing, what are you most afraid of?
Brynn Saito responds,
I fear that the poem knows something that I do not yet know. This is also my greatest hope. I get afraid that, through poetry, I’ll uncover something about myself that will completely alter the story I’ve constructed about my life. In the same breath, I’m afraid my own writing will, one day, cease to surprise me, cease to reveal an unknown. I’m reading Mary Ruefle’s cutting and beautiful book of lectures,Madness, Rack and Honey. In it, she talks about craft: a craft is a thing, she reminds us—a boat, or a ship, or a raft. “Great skill is involved in building a craft, for it is far from easy to make things that float of fly.” Every time I sit down to it, I fear both the failure of flight and the possibility of some wild orbit through the exhilarating dark. But I believe in my fear: fear is useful; fear is tied to wonder—that feeling of trembling before the terrifying angel (Rilke!), that rush of living on the edge of what is known.
W.W. ON HOW TO BE FREE
Go to the ends of the earth / girl / go like a leopard
chasing her longing / go like the grasses grown
and cut and blowing over the valley by autumn
fire-winds / Go away from the valley / girl / go
to the city / go like a fighter / with gold ore
precision / with penny-like pain / with plenty
of power / Please ignore / what you can girl /
the growls in your absence / the men with their ice-blocks
melting in arms / the men with their mine-field hearts /
The women like me / wishing you well / whistling
wisdom into your spine / learn to lie to survive / girl /
learn to outlast the flame / learn the art of surprise
Brynn Saito is a poet and writer living in the SF Bay Area. She wrote a book called The Palace of Contemplating Departure.