Whose story is it anyway?

I think I overextended this week. I took on a piece that I did not have the capacity to produce effectively in a week. It was a story that began shaping up nicely until I tried to communicate the experience of feeling a negative emotion that I had never experienced before. Why was I so reluctant to tell a story like this? What capacity do I have to get other people to feel something that I myself have never felt? Am I allowed to tell a story that isn’t mine?

As a black student at a PWI (predominantly white institution), I think about the black consciousness a lot. I think about black people in academia. I wonder whether “telling my story” is a privilege or a stipulation of being educated as a member of a marginalized community. Is non-black academic writing about the black experience a form of voice-stealing?

Readers, what do you think? If the “something” that I want to write about is something I care about deeply, but it’s also someone else’s identifier (and not mine), should I leave it to them to tell that story?

I haven’t finished that story. Not only have I still not decided whether I should tell a story like that without having experienced something like it myself, I also realized that I hadn’t figured out exactly what emotion it is that I thought I’d be sharing. That was a perfect recipe for some writer’s block.

ThinkWritten.com came to my rescue. In my desperation to shake the block that had developed thanks to my reservations, I frantically googled “poetry writing prompts” and picked one of the first links that I saw. One self-administered pep talk and some more procrastination later, this blog post was born.

I compiled a list of my favorite prompts from the 101 suggested in this article on ThinkWritten. I picked my favorite three and I just wrote. I enjoyed being pushed by these prompts so much that I will likely use this list again in the future to work on certain writing and poetry techniques.

I hope you enjoy the following poems. I’ve left the corresponding prompt at the beginning of each poem so that you know what inspired each one. Remember, leave me a comment letting me know what you think about my predicament.

Who is allowed to tell which stories? Why was I reluctant to complete and post the piece that I originally had planned? Was my decision born of respect for another person’s emotional property, or of the desire to remain in my comfort zone?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Taste the Rainbow: What does your favorite color taste like?

I never understood why the characters in children’s books didn’t like porridge. What’s not to like about thick, goopy, semi-hot, strangely-textured grey slop? I know. I was a bizarre kid.

For me, the color grey is warm. 

It’s the thick covers under which I would cower with my sister during a heavy rainstorm on a cloudy day.

It’s the sweatshirt that fits comfortably around me as I write this.

It’s the black and white silent movies that keep me company when meditation fails.

It’s my mom’s old pajama shorts that I wear on the nights when I miss her too much.

Grey is the area in which I have the agency to decide for myself what’s black and white.

It’s the taste of creamy oatmeal porridge that will always remind me of home.

Stranger Conversations: Start the first line of your poem with a word or phrase from a recent passing conversation between you and someone you don’t know.

I’m sorry that all I can offer you is an apology. 

An apology like this is easy until you’ve been on the receiving end of one.

One day I started skipping the sympathy because I know it wasn’t what I needed.

I needed…what? I don’t know. I needed to know someone was there.

There’s nothing more one can say.

Say you’re on an anonymous Internet forum one day and someone says that their mom died three moths ago.

3 months ago and a year is when my mother passed away. A year already. A year at last. Time passes at once painfully slowly and unbelievably quickly. How?

How does it pass in such strange ways?

Way off in a cloudy memory, I see myself reflected in a stranger on the internet.

Internet stranger, I’m sorry that “sorry” is all I can offer you.

All I can offer you in my apology is a listening ear and a virtual shoulder to cry on.

Onward, my friend. Onward we go.

Home Planet: Imagine you are from another planet, stuck on earth and longing for home.

(Editor’s note: I wrote the following as a finishing stanza to a poem that I hadn’t fully formulated in my head. As I struggled to write the rest of the poem around the ending, I could not find the flow that I was looking for. I ultimately decided that this may work even better as a set of standalone lines.)

The worst part about missing home is that

I know 

I can never be home again. 

Because home is you.

The Letter D: Make a list of 5 words that start with all with the same letter, and then use these items throughout the lines of your verse. {This can be any letter, but for example sake: Daisy, Dishes, Desk, Darkness, Doubt}

Luckily, you’re in the library again today.

Life has a funny way of doing that.

Looking around at all the other people, I almost let the butterflies that I feel convince me once again not to walk over.

Listen, it’s now or never. I’m already halfway to your table. Here goes nothing.

“Hi, I’m Lia.”

Thanks for reading. Let me know if any of these prompts inspired you, too!

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