Editor Diana Whitney and Poet Lynn Melnick created a courageous space for writing poetry centered around taboo emotions, rewriting stigma and living life uncensored. We used prompts inspired by the collection, You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves, which features a poem by Amanda Gorman, gained insight into constructing an anthology and learned that no matter the age, your raw, unique voice can be a gift to the world.
Prompt #1: Rewriting stigma
Write a poem rooted in a taboo emotion. EX: SADNESS, RAGE, LONGING, DESIRE, SHAME, ETC.
Prompt #2: Say what you’re not supposed to say
Write a letter to someone who would never get it.
Write a poem that is a series of text messages.
Lynn Melnick is the author of the poetry collections Refusenik (forthcoming 2022), Landscape with Sex and Violence (2017), and If I Should Say I Have Hope (2012), all with YesYes Books, and the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, a book about Dolly Parton that is also a bit of a memoir, is forthcoming from University of Texas Press in 2022. Her poetry has appeared in APR, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, and A Public Space. Her essays have appeared in air/light, LA Review of Books, ESPN, and the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. A former fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and previously on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, she currently teaches poetry at Columbia University and the 92Y.
Diana Whitney writes across the genres in Vermont with a focus on feminism, motherhood, and sexuality. Her first book, Wanting It, became an indie bestseller and won the Rubery Book Award in poetry. She was the longtime poetry critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, where she featured women poets and LGBTQ+ voices in her column. Her essays, op-eds, and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Kenyon Review, Glamour, and many more. She won the 2015 Women’s National Book Association poetry prize and has received grants and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. Diana also works as a feminist activist in her community and beyond. Her advocacy for survivors of sexual violence has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Christian Science Monitor, among other press outlets.