Junk Drawer Song:
A Four-Step Writing Instruction

Prompt Against Anxiety #18 | from Toronto-based poet Hoa Nguyen. She is the author of As Long As Trees LastRed JuiceViolet Energy Ingots, and A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, forthcoming from Wave Books in April 2021.


Find an unstructured frame of mind for this writing, a fieldwork moment that invites you to map new connections of meaning and sound. 
Allow your writing to be a construction, with repetition and reference loosely arranged. Invite play in your associations; seek new perspectives of image and sound. Don’t rush to linked meaning or therefore conclusions. Remain curious as you record in your notebook.

What you need

  • Notebook and pen
  • A receptacle such as a ‘junk’ drawer, glove compartment, or other general-collection storage container: anything that contains a collection of related and unrelated objects
  • A folk or vintage pop song of your choosing

Step one
Tune up.
Select a song with which you have some familiarity and that carries personal resonance. Listen to a recording of the song and take notes. Where is the song in your body? Let the song take you somewhere in response, catch and connect to the lyrics, invite alternate words and mis-hearings, link the song to impressions and sensation and to atmospheres of texture and image. 
Don’t worry about making “sense." Write for ten minutes and then set this writing aside.

Step two
Move among the collections.
On a new page, write in response to your chosen collection of objects. Allow your writing to move freely and bounce around the associated/disassociated objects there. Connect with description, perception, and memory. 
Write for as long as you care to and proceed to the next improvisation.  

Step three
Conjoin the writings musically.
Bring your writings together. Float between the language there. What do they communicate to each other? What collects in a newly shared space? 

Write a third piece drawing upon both writings. Write into the shared space to create a melodic cohesion of sense and sound. Consider sound as a unifying structure. Introduce at least three forms of repetition, play with variations of phrase or word. 

Step four
Name your poem: give your new writing a title. Name it after an aspect of the song and/or a ‘junk drawer’ item. 

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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Writing/Playing the ArchivePrompt #11—Jay Besemer

CAPTURED & FREEDPrompt #10—Dasha Kelly Hamilton

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Proyecto ConbífPrompt #8—Erick "CK" Ledesma

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

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