On Friday, January 15, author Arisa White led us through a series of writing prompts using our senses to recall an absence that has had a profound impact on how we see ourselves in the world.
FEELING THE ABSENCE
Bring attention to someone whose absence has affected you. Where do you feel it in your body? Write down the part of your body where you feel the absence. Describe the feeling as a series of colors and objects. Ask your absence a question. Write this question down.
INTERROGATING THE ABSENCE
- Bring attention to your BACK: Who do you transform into in this absence? Use the meanings of your names as inspiration.
- Bring attention to your LEFT ARM/SIDE OF BODY: When did they learn freedom
- Bring your attention to your RIGHT ARM/ SIDE OF BODY: How did they feed you?
- Bring your attention to your FEET: Where are you rooted?
- Bring your attention to your HEART/CENTER: What taste is their love?
PROMPT 1: MEMORY
Use your responses to question 3, 4, & 5 and take the colors/objects associated with your absence and locate a memory. Write about the memory describing the colors you see. Give us the who, what, where, and when of the memory.
PROMPT 2: MEMORY 2
Use your responses to question 1, 2, & 4 to locate a different memory associated with your absence. Write about the memory starting with touch/texture. In this memory, allow yourself to be transformed.
PROMPT 3: REFLECTION
Return to the question you posed to your Absence. How do the pieces you’ve written respond to the question? What patterns are you noticing? What things in your writing feels charged: image, word usage, sentence structure, rhythm, etc? What ideas are coming up for things to write or expand upon? What new questions arise?
A note from Arisa: In Who’s Your Daddy, I was crafting a father’s absence and poetry was the best way to language the glimpses, the unseen: it offered freedom from cause-and-effect. Memory happens like poetry to me. It emphasizes the image and its emotional resonance and it leaps and associates, making metaphors to form connections. Because I was trying to connect with what was gone, to what was driving my unconscious behaviors, what was shaping my fears, and connect to what I was grieving, poetry and lyric’s magic gave me the space to explore and find my way to my father.
Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow and an assistant professor of creative writing at Colby College. She is the author of You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened and co-author of the middle-grade biography Biddy Mason Speaks Up. Forthcoming in March 2021 from Augury Books is her poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy. She serves on the board of directors for Foglifter and Nomadic Press.
Purchase Who’s Your Daddy.