five SOMATIC WRITING PROMPTS for YOU:
brought to you by Emji Spero
1. (Soma)tic Poetry & The Rain & YOU
Let’s talk about the weather. Forecast calls for rain this week through Thursday for Oakland, CA. And probably, it will just keep on for a while yet. Now at least, there is something you can do about it.
Here is CAConrad’s (Soma)tic Poetry Exercise #60:
Watch weather report for heavy rain. On the day before, drink NOTHING. No beverages of any kind. Eat no soup or broth. Eat only steamed vegetables with soft noodles or bread. Wait for rain. Set your alarm to wake in the middle of the night, and then sit by the window peering into the dark sky with binoculars. Think about your first memory of being thirsty. Take notes, go back to sleep.
Wait for rain. You are still not drinking the next day and you are very thirsty. When rain arrives sit by the window. Close your eyes, take your pulse, hear the rain, feel your blood. Imagine that the water you hear coming to earth will never touch your lips, can never quench the dryness that is your mouth. Were you ever so thirsty that you were in pain? Open your eyes, take notes.
Go out into the rain. Lie on the ground. Look directly into the sky through binoculars with your mouth open. Drink DIRECTLY from the air while watching the streaming drops fall onto the binocular lens. Open an umbrella and take noes to the beating of rain. You are a drought that is cured. You are a body sponging back your life. Shape your three sets of notes into one poem or three.
You can find more (Soma)tic Poetry Exercises by CAConrad at
http://somaticpoetryexercises.blogspot.com/, or in his new book,
A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon (Wave Books, 2012)
2. Learning to Love YOU More
From 2002-2009, over 8000 people participated in a series of “Assignments,” created by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher, and posted the results online at on learningtoloveyoumore.com. I think Assignment #11 is particularly lovely & that you should try it at home, or at someone else’s home, or just somewhere:
ASSIGNMENT #11: Photograph a scar and write about it.
Photograph a scar on your body or on someone else’s body. Make it a close-up shot so that it shows just the scar. Include a story (write it on a computer as a separate file, don’t write it on the photograph) about how the scar happened. Please do not send images of wounds that are fresh and have not healed. Only images of scars will be accepted.
And that maybe you should get a group of people together to do it & you can exchange scar-photos and write to each other’s scar photos, and then pass your photo to the next person & have them write that scar photo & they’ll pass it on to the next person & eventually your own photo will make it back to you & you will all have a book that you can then publish & the title of each chapter will just be a photograph of someone else’s scar. What’d you think?
3. YOU & YOU Is Present
In 2010, the New York City MOMA hosted Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. In a vast and central room of the MOMA sat two chairs, facing one another. In one chair, Marina Abramović, the other would remain empty until someone chose to sit down, and the two would stare, silent, eyes locked, until the someone would stand up and walk away. This exhibition lasted eight hours a day for two and a half months, with Abramović leaving only to pee. ONLY TO PEE!
Try this with a friend, a stranger, your partner, your mom. Set up two chairs across from one another. For fifteen minutes: Look into one another’s eyes. Do not speak. Do not break eye contact for ANY REASON, not for barking dogs, not for a grease fire, not for a that sudden parade of humans dressed up like kitchen appliances dancing by your open window. Nothing.
Now, immediately afterward, each of you must write for ten minutes. Ten minutes. (If you can’t get your mom to write, that’s okay, I understand.) Compare what each of you wrote. Or combine it.
4. The Vertical Interrogation of YOUrselves
Bhanu Kapil’s book, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2009), began as a set of twelve questions, questions she used as interview with other Indian women. Imagine being “locked in a room without windows, furniture or overhead lighting.” Imagine only having half an hour to write or speak responses to these questions:
1. Who are you and whom do you love?
2. Where did you come from / how did you arrive?
3. How will you begin?
4. How will you live now?
5. What is the shape of your body?
6. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
7. What do you remember about the earth?
8. What are the consequences of silence?
9. Tell me what you know about dismemberment.
10. Describe a morning you woke without fear.
11. How will you / have you prepare(d) for you death?
12. And what would you say if you could?
Actually, don’t imagine it. Do it. Right now. If you have a window, draw the curtain, pin up a sheet, a shirt, whatever. If you have no lock, push a chair against your desk. Or just clear your desk of everything. Or just write in the dark. You have half an hour: that’s approximately two and a half minutes per question. Go.
& Then go back & collage your words together.
Don’t alter your grammar, just cut and paste.
5. ContinYOUous Writing
This last exercise is from What It Is by writer/comic artist Lynda Barry. It’s pretty simple: you can’t lift your pen from the paper & your hand must never stop moving. Do this for at least five or ten minutes. Do this in addition to another prompt or project. If you run out of words, just keep moving your hand, scribbling, drawing circles, illegible scrawls, windows, spirals, anything, and then when words come again, let them come.