Poetic Exit Strategies

Things you may or may not want to try at home

Prompt Against Anxiety #9 | from poet Ana Božičević, author of Joy of Missing Out (Birds, LLC, 2017), Rise in the Fall (Birds, LLC, 2013), and Stars of the Night Commute (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2009)


One thing that sure does make me feel better is narrating my life like it was the biopic of a great writer . . . “She approached the dirty window, behind which crystal towers were gleaming—or was that the narrow light breaking through windowpanes whose accumulations of yesterdays’ rains fell like so many hoary angel tears . . .”  Like that—the more hyperbolic, the more extravagant—the better; or on the contrary, stark in its simplicity. Pretend you’re the writer in the movie. Move around your space with intention. Let your body do the talking. That’s called acting. Congratulations, you’ve just discovered acting! “The great bard approached the dirty window . . .” It’s enough to get the blood pumping.

Try counting all the birds. I mean I’m serious. Count. The. Birds. You can sort them by taxonomies you look up or invent, alternate between day and night. Thus a bird log is born.
Record. Your. Dreams. Pay special attention to the places you visit. Draw maps. I mean, I literally dreamed I was in some centrifugal 0G mall featuring a high-security Wilhelm Reich Institute, which gave me a great idea for this novel I am thinking of writing . . . And speaking of thinking about writing, it doesn’t have to be a cloud one lives under. Why not just think for fun—make castles in your mind, spin stories and sell the rights and cast shows and sit by the window of a traincar while tall pines whizz by in the dusk. Daydream. That’s so you. Play and whip worlds up and pull them apart like so much cloud candy. You’re the artist. The inhabitant of the room in your skull. You peek out of your skull like the tourist who fell asleep in the crown of Lady Liberty blinks out across the after-hours smoothness of the harbor, lights dancing in a Whistler painting of a water disco.


Nocturne in Black and Gold by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

This is a fantastic time to revisit and build personal mythologies. Slight hallucinations from contact deprivation may be a bonus! Is it me, or are objects in isolation becoming a little more . . . anthropomorphic? It’s fun to pretend you’re a solo Cinderella or fairy surrounded by friendly talking furniture, chatty cutlery, helpful paintings. Or it will drive you near insane—either way, you will definitely not be bored. And aren’t the objects approaching the Things in Rilke’s Dinggedichte (Thing Poems)? Regard things closely and write about them. You’re the painter in a tiny room, with nothing but your shoe left to observe. You’re a rare aesthete in a rented garret, dreaming all your days of someone you passed in the street once. All your old finery falls from you like red leaves in the storm. Now you’re alone in a tower, writing your first elegy.
Obtain an attractive plant. Dance up on it, pretending you’re a butterfly. End up falling asleep with a giant leaf resting on your head. Always water the plant after dancing.
Roaches? They’re not just mindless marauders of a superior species. They’re small dark-suited clerks rushing off to important assignations, the scattered pins of a great army struggling up the giant snowman . . . no, it’s not working—still hate the roaches. But the kitchen and its elemental forces are always a source of power to explore. Just don’t run any electrics near water sources.
If, on the same night you clean every inch of your home, your phone slides into a watery aquarelle death, its synapses visibly blurring and frying—there’s a nebulous thunderstorm in the course of which a magnificent tree snaps in half—and you also receive some bad news, you will not be surprised. You’ve been seeing signs and symbols everywhere for a long time. Already last year, in a vision, a whole host of ancestors appeared to you, beaming in live from some sort of starry lounge, and in between wise cackles they were visibly concerned for you. The curtain fell and you were left with an urgent warning. 
And how a tall bird now moved into the house where I once lived with my mother.
A tall bird moved into
Our old house
She looks a bit
Like my mother
I see her every day
Walking to the park
With a perambulator
Looking for me
Why who is this sordid 
Why it is the stork
That brought you—
Every woman is assigned 
A bird that looks
A little like her
So that one looks 
A bit like your mom and
She wanted to 
Meet you... ah, that
Explains it. With 
A certain 
Silence in my heart
I approach the great bird.


Try to imagine such a bird. How small you would feel. Look at Remedios Varo paintings. What is the bird's deal, anyways? 
Find and identify any stars you can see from your window. If you can’t see any, download the app that tells you which ones are in the sky above you. Ponder the constellations, in terms of zodiac and mythology. What might you do under such a sign? Then get in the shower and feel you are almost hearing the music of the spheres, a few simple tones like in the finale of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The great Alina Pleskova tweets, “i just like thinking about things moving around out there in these ancient patterns that precede us & all our fuckups.” And the great Bhanu Kapil points us to Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s latest, where she writes “Stars arrive non-visually at first.”

Read friends’ life-saving posts on Twitter.
Look up the Angelic Hours and pass the hour by contemplating its angel. If it worked for H.D. . . . For example, I just learned that the angel of the coming 9th hour on Sunday is my namesake Anael, Joy of God, and now I’m kind of happy. 
Did you know when it’s silent there’s an area inside you can go where time passes different to what it is outside? Diane di Prima imagined time


from Mysteries of Vision, CUNY Lost & Found

You may fall asleep in jeans and a t-shirt and wake up at dawn to a pink sky as the mourning dove goes: — - - in answer to your question: What is time?


Read Rescue Party cartoons @desertislandcomics and discover one that talks of meeting angelic beings in the shower. Feel a part of a great network of beings just listening to some dream communication almost breaking through, some innate ability to hear the universe expressed through our desire to connect. Now that you’re in a philosophical mood, put on a long beard, light a candle, and sit gazing into a skull or cradling an apple—or write with a mirror and a watch, like Boris Pasternak. Now you’re like one of the thinkers of old—someone must have held this pose at some past time . . . Some bard. The great bird approaches the dirty window.

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. 

More from this series

Write in NaturePrompt #39—Oogie Push

Real FoodPrompt #38—Joan Kane

You Don't Need Proust to Smell GoodPrompt #37—Elizabeth Hoover

Find Your Own FormPrompt #36—Sawako Nakayasu


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

We acknowledge that in Milwaukee we live and work on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, part of North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present. 

We further acknowledge the grave evil colonialism introduced to these lands ​through genocide as well as slavery, and also via racist and xenophobic ​beliefs, laws​, and practices that continue to inflict harm upon Black, brown, and Indigenous lives. We honor those who have lived—and do live, now—at these intersections of identity and experience, and are committed to the active dismantling of white supremacy.

Read our statement on racial justice

720 E. Locust Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone: 414 263 5001

Hours: Tues–Sun | 12-7 pm

Closed Mon

Building Accessibility: Despite the age of our physical location, and attendant limitations to access, Woodland Pattern is committed to making its programs and facilities available for as many as possible. Please call for more information.

Events Accessibility: Woodland Pattern is able to offer captioning services for its online events and with advanced notice can provide ASL interpretation for live events. Please contact us with accommodation requests and questions.

© Woodland Pattern 2024