Hello poets! Today we explore a virtually unlimited source of poetic inspiration: your morning newspaper. Go fish it out of the recycle bin and let’s WRITE WORDS NOW.
Respond to a Current Event. Write a poem that responds to an event or movement that has been in the news during the past year. Is it something that has received a lot of coverage? Or almost none? Don’t be afraid to address society, ask questions, and express outrage in your poem. On the other hand, perhaps you would like to address your poem to a person who you know has a very different view of the event than you do. Or address the poem to yourself. What would your poet self like to explain to you about how you are perceiving this event?
Need inspiration? Check out the Poetry Foundation’s wonderful collection of political poems and poems responding to social issues.
For this prompt I wrote a sort of epic poem, in which the hero is the house Rosa Parks lived in for a time when she moved to Detroit after the Montgomery bus boycott. It’s something I have been thinking about writing about for a while, ever since I clipped an article out of the New York Times back in September. You can see a photograph of the house in the link.
2672 South Deacon Street
Another foreclosure sale, a line item on a demo list.
Detroit didn’t want it, had problems of its own.
Rosa’s niece bought it for a dear five hundred.
An artist took the little white house apart, piece by piece,
and shipped it to his home in Berlin.
Then he built it back up again in his back yard.
The niece let him do it because, what else was there to do?
Snow fell on the house. The wind blew.
The windows of the house were pasted with rain-driven leaves.
Yellow flowers burst from beneath the boards.
People of means paid homage.
Each day the door of the little white house opened and shut.
Each day hands pulled back the pleated white curtains.
Each day faces were pressed to the dirty glass.
But the house grew forlorn.
The dark nakedness of its boards,
The strips of peeling paint fluttering in the wind,
like a quivering fur of decay.
The little white house lay dying,
black sockets for its eyes.
The artist brought flood lamps, and there was light.
But the light was not kindly. It burned like shame.
The little white house winced and heaved,
reckoned itself an imploding star.
The artist made calls, desperate pleas.
“Yes!” they said. “Bring it back! We
want it, we want it, bring it back.”
And so he did, boards stacked neatly,
venturing forth again in the belly of a ship.
For the second time the little white house
felt the pain of unbecoming, the prising apart of the
floor boards where her bare feet had stepped,
the shoving together of window frame,
where she had always set her spoon,
and rafter, where her eyes once leapt to in a storm.
There was to be an exhibition.
Instead, a letter to cease and desist.
An institute, at odds with the family,
claimed the rights to Rosa’s name.
This was not truly her house, they said.
Or, there was another house that was more her house than this.
The people bowed low before the specter of the law,
resolved themselves not to make trouble.
The artist managed to erect the little house again,
But just the bones, and for only two days.
It was an obscenity. It was a disgrace.
His house, her house, their house. What can it possibly matter?
Wasn’t this her stopping place, after the death threats?
Her place of refuge after the “no” that changed the world?
Places are consecrated, deemed hallowed, subject to pilgrimage,
On a great deal less. A president slept here. A king.
A rock star ate dinner at this table.
And what of the little white house? Didn’t she walk its floors?
Fit herself around the crowded table? Didn’t the door slam
Behind her when she stepped into the garden?
Didn’t she, her hands full, shimmy it open again with her hip,
Because she knew just how to do it?
Put it together. Take it apart. Ship it back across the sea.
It will stand somewhere, freshly painted,
stripped of her last residue, silent of her echoes,
a monument only to our great indifference.