The Time Is Now

Writ­ing prompts and exercises.

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“Some­one was al­ways, al­ways here, / then sud­denly dis­ap­peared / and stub­bornly stays dis­ap­peared,” writes Wisława Szym­borska in “Cat in an Empty


Apart­ment,” trans­lated from the Pol­ish by Stanisław and Clare Ca­vanagh. Although we of­ten think of in­spi­ra­tion in terms of an over­heard frag­ment, a fleet­ing sen­ti­ment, a glimpsed ob­ject, a visit from a muse—the pres­ence of some thing—many po­ets have found in­spi­ra­tion and emo­tional res­o­nance in empti­ness. “Im­plodes, and all the way to noth­ing. / To il­lu­mine, first, then fades to black. / Hole where light was. / Ab­sent star, per­fo­ra­tion in there,” writes Va­lerie Martínez in the ti­tle poem of Ab­sence, Lu­mi­nes­cent (Four Way Books, 1999). Diana Khoi Nguyen’s po­ems in Ghost Of (Om­nidawn, 2018) delve into ab­sence by pre­sent­ing fam­ily pho­to­graphs from which her brother had cut him­self out be­fore his death, fol­lowed by con­crete verse that takes the shape of the ex­cised sil­hou­ette or rec­tan­gu­lar blocks of text that fill the shape of the neg­a­tive space. Write a poem that takes in­spi­ra­tion from an ab­sence or empti­ness of a per­son, place, or feel­ing.

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