Prompts Against Anxiety #38 | from Inupiaq poet Joan Kane. Kane is the author of numerous collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Dark Traffic, forthcoming from Pitt Poetry Series this fall.
In the Ugiuvak (King Island) tradition—as with many other Indigenous people of the arctic and communities engaged in surviving through sustainable food networks, subsistence cultures, and practices—when a living being is harvested for nourishment, a hunter customarily places water in the mouth of the animal as an expression of thanks, to satiate and honor the inua (life force) of a being who is connected to everyone and everything in the universe.
Writers are often told to “nourish” their writing with reading, observation, reflection. Here’s a prompt to (re)connect you to the land, ice, or water that has been (or will be) a source of nourishment for you, that will engage your senses and get you thinking in different directions about meals, real or imagined.
1. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Make a list of your favorite dishes to eat, or meals you would like to eat, or meals you’ve heard about that remain in your memory.
2. Look over your list and consider the people, places, and lives connected to those foods. Start to make categories of whatever type make sense to you (seasonal meals, family meals, foods connected to a particular ecosystem, etc). Choose 5-7 meals/dishes to focus on with the intention of writing about the people, places, and lives you associate with those foods. Which of these meals happened in the near past, the far past, and the far, far past (last year, your childhood, your family/ancestors). What undergirding structures or events do you see? If your list is not about things that are fun or happy (and you’d like it to be), go back, try to see the beauty there. Conversely, if you see things that need substance, revisit and revise your list accordingly.
3. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Make a list of all the images (not just visual images, but sounds, smells, textures, temperatures, etc) of anything you associate with those meals.
4. Look over your lists and categories and set another timer for 20 minutes and see if you have the beginnings of a piece that has some relationship to narrative via time, to character via living beings, to your own positionality by seeing how interconnected these items are. If you have something that looks like a poem, try to write with stanzaic regularity. If you have something that looks like prose, consider some of the vessels/containers/different shapes that are used to store these sources of nourishment as an inspiration for the prose shape of your piece.
More from this series
Real FoodPrompt #38—Joan Kane
You Don't Need Proust to Smell GoodPrompt #37—Elizabeth Hoover
Find Your Own FormPrompt #36—Sawako Nakayasu
Tarot Recall: A Visionary Exercise for the PresentPrompt #35—Laurence Ross
Queers in Love at the End of the WorldPrompt #34—CJ Scruton
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
Writing Advice for Your Younger SelfPrompt #14—E.J. Koh
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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