Find Your Own Form

Prompts Against Anxiety #36 | from poet and translator Sawako Nakayasu, author of several books of poetry, including Some Girls Walk Into the Country They Are From (Wave Books, 2020). She currently teaches at Brown University. Learn more about her here.

Drawing by Chris Martin

Drawing by Chris Martin

1. Choose an object or concept. Let’s call this thing “X.”

2. Tell yourself, in some fashion, that every poem you write from now on is going to be “about X” or “an X poem” or features an “X.”

3. Write poems in this manner for as long as you can.

I have written a couple of books this way, which makes me wonder if others have, too. My first one was “texture,” which I initially wrote on a blog I called Texture Notes. Then, I wrote The Ants—when writing those ant poems, I often asked people I ran into to give me a word. Then I would have a prompt: “ants + the word that was just given me.” In my most recent book, there were “girls.” In each of these books there is something I am wanting, hoping, trying, to say. Having some thing serve as mask or filter or point of entry allows me to get on with it. It’s not exactly a form, but when done repeatedly, it serves to trick my mind into thinking: it is time to write a poem

Prompts Against Anxiety is sponsored by Milwaukee Public Library, an anchor institution that helps patrons read, learn, and connect—to our resources and our community. Now more than ever, stay connected, stay home, and stay safe. 
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More from this series

Find Your Own FormPrompt #36—Sawako Nakayasu

WORKBOOK FOR CHANGE: TWO PROMPTSPrompt #33—Kate Schapira

Preparation for the PromptPrompt #32—Lisa Fishman

Collage Your Own Writing PromptPrompt #31—Helen Hofling

Prepared StatementPrompt #30—Mike Hauser

Repeat Repeat WritePrompt #29— Lewis Freedman

Poetic CorrespondencePrompt #28—Eric Baus

EKPHRASIS YOURSELFPrompt #27—Jennifer Nelson

POETRY IS FOR THE PEOPLEPrompt #26—Angela Trudell Vasquez

MAIL ARTPrompt #25—Siwar Masannat

VISUAL POSTCARDSPrompt #24—Portia Cobb

A [LONGER-TERM] DEEP LISTENING PROMPTPrompt #23—Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Humor as Medicine for the SoulPrompt #22—Mauricio Kilwein Guevara

Personification: A Social Justice PromptPrompt #21—Derrick Harriell

Ponge ExercisePrompt #20—Tyrone Williams

Occult DocupoesisPrompt #19—Kimberly Alidio

Junk Drawer SongPrompt #18—Hoa Nguyen

TALK TO THE POETSPrompt #17—Stacy Szymaszek

Make-Do Origin Stories & Concrete FuturesPrompt #16—Ching-In Chen

The Family PhotographPrompt #15—Rosa Alcalá

Note(s) to SelfPrompt #13—Stacy Blint

Embracing ConfusionPrompt #12—Bryon Cherry

Writing/Playing the ArchivePrompt #11—Jay Besemer

CAPTURED & FREEDPrompt #10—Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Poetic Exit StrategiesPrompt #9—Ana Božičević

Proyecto ConbífPrompt #8—Erick "CK" Ledesma

TRILOGYPrompt #6—CA Conrad

Utopian CompromisePrompt #7—Paul Druecke

A Series of RoomsPrompt #5—Laura Solomon

Two Variations on N+7Prompt #4—Jenny Gropp

T H E A P A R T / TOGETHERPOEMPrompt #3—Margaret Rozga

An Exercise in WindowsPrompt #2—Marla Sanvick

Erasuring AnxietyPrompt #1—Peter Burzynski

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