31 January 2012

'History is in a hurry. It moves like a woman...'

The NPR news program All Things Considered has a new feature: Each month it will take on a "poet-in-residence" for a day. The poet will shadow workers, attend news meetings, become familiar with the stories of the day and how they come to be stories on air. Then, the poet will write a poem using that day's news as a prompt.

January news poet Tracy K. Smith was moved by the story of Nigerians fleeing violence in the north of their country, which she heard about at the morning news meeting. She told All Things Considered's Melissa Block that news events are often "things I am thinking about and wrestling with and trying to understand better." And what better way to do that than to write about them?

Smith had to write her poem "in a hurry," not unlike how writers write to timed prompts in my workshops. But she had the "luxury" of an entire day! Her poem written in a a hurry begins: 

     History is in a hurry. It moves like a woman
     Corralling her children onto a crowded bus.

Smith discusses her writing process with reporter Melissa Block. To read and/or listen to the interview and to read Smith's entire poem and hear her read it, click here.

Any day the glare of the empty page gets to you, try checking out your favorite news source. Scan the headlines from that day or the day before, read the stories that seem to reach out to you. Give yourself some time for ideas to dance around in your head, couple and rise to the surface. Then write whatever stirs your feelings the most. Free write at first, giving your thoughts free reign. There's plenty of time to edit later. You'll write your way into that place all on your own.

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