Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Contemporary Black Poetry

Welcome to Week 4 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.
This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing poems inspired by the Black Arts Movement? Were your poems angry? Defiant? Did your poems protest racism and the oppression of your people? Did you write your poems for and to your people? Did you “stick it to the man”? Did you put your fist in the air and shout, “Black Power”?

This past week of BlaPoWriMo was quite interesting because it coincided with the release of Black Panther, which was revolutionary itself! I swear, I didn’t plan that, but it’s wonderful how those things work out sometimes. ūüėČ

By the way, if you missed last week’s Black Arts theme, don’t fret. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the Black Arts Movement, or last week’s era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even our first era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!
Now, let’s journey on to the next era: TODAY!

How can we best describe contemporary black poetry? That is, black poetry of today. While we’ve seen the cultural artistry continue from many poets since the Black Arts Movement, including from some of my favorites—Gwendolyn Brooks, Toi Dererricotte, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton—in recent years, some have begun to question whether black literature, as we’ve come to study it, still exists today.

African-American literature was the literature of a distinct historical period, namely, the era of constitutionally sanctioned segregation known as Jim Crow. . . . Like it or not, African-American literature was a Jim Crow phenomenon, which is to say, speaking from the standpoint of a post-Jim Crow world, African-American literature is history. While one can (and students of American literature certainly should) write about African-American literature as an object of study, one can no longer write African-American literature, any more than one can currently write Elizabethan literature.

Kenneth W. Warren, “Does African-American Literature Exist?” The Chronicle of Higher Education (2011)

Did it die with the Black Arts Movement? With the fall of Jim Crow? Does it deserve to still have its own section in the bookstores? Is it even its own genre today? Are we still “fighting the good fight”? Does our art still provide a voice to the disenfranchised African American? Do the characteristics of today’s contemporary black literature make it stand out specifically as black literature, or is it just American literature written by black people? Should I even continue with Black Poetry Writing Month next year? Is it a waste of time? A redundancy?
For our final week of BlaPoWriMo, let’s prove that there’s still a need for black poetry/literature in today’s generation.

There is still so much to talk about. Whether it’s politically—i.e. Black Lives Matter, this generation’s Civil Rights Movement against police brutality and the justice system’s unfair targeting of people of color. Or socially—the success of movies like Black Panther shows how essential it is for blacks to see themselves represented on the big screen in roles other than the subservient or criminal ones we’re used to seeing. Or financially—despite America being one of the richest countries in the world, many blacks still live in poverty, struggling to survive paycheck-to-paycheck, resorting to drug abuse and criminal behavior, etc. And what’s wrong with going back to the past every once in a while? The neo slave narrative, a genre all its own did just that, allowing us to revisit and deal with our past traumas in a fictional/poetic way.

Black poetry/literature may not be what it used to, but there’s still a purpose for it. So continue the discussion. This week and moving forward. And to get you started, here’s a poem that’s sure to find a spot in every black person’s heart, for those who do and who [embarrassingly] don’t know how to play Spades…

We Should Make a Documentary About Spades

And here is all we’ll need: a card deck, quartets of sun people
Of the sort found in black college dormitories, some vintage
Music, indiscriminate spirits, fried chicken, some paper,

A writing utensil, and a bottomless Saturday. We should explore
The origins of a derogatory word like spade as well as the word
For feeling alone in polite company. And also the implications
Of calling someone who is not your brother or sister,

Brother or Sister. So little is known of our past, we can imagine
Damn near anything. When I say maybe slaves held Spades
Tournaments on the anti-cruise ships bound for the Colonies,
You say when our ancestors were cooped on those ships

They were not yet slaves. Our groundbreaking film should begin
With a low-lit den in the Deep South and the deep fried voice
Of somebody’s grandmother holding smoke in her mouth
As she says, “The two of Diamonds trumps the two of Spades

In my house.‚ÄĚ And at some point someone should tell the story
Where Jesus and the devil are Spades partners traveling
The juke joints of the 1930s. We could interview my uncle Junior
And definitely your skinny cousin Mary and any black man

Sitting at a card table wearing shades. Who do you suppose
Would win if Booker T and MLK were matched against Du Bois
And Malcolm X in a game of Spades? You say don’t talk
Across the table. Pay attention to the suits being played.

The object of the game is to communicate invisibly
With your teammate. I should concentrate. Do you suppose
We are here because we are lonely in some acute diasporafied
Way? This should be explored in our film about Spades.

Because it is one of the ways I am still learning what it is
To be black, tonight I am ready to master Spades. Four players
Bid a number of books. Each team adds the bids
Of the two partners, and the total is the number of books

That team must try to win. Is that not right? This is a game
That tests the boundary between mathematics and magic,
If you ask me. A bid must be intuitive like the itchiness
Of the your upper lip before you sip strange whiskey.

My mother did not drink, which is how I knew something
Was wrong with her, but she held a dry spot at the table
When couples came to play. It’s a scene from my history,
But this probably should not be mentioned in our documentary

About Spades. Renege is akin to the word for the shame
You feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Slapping
A card down must be as dramatic as hitting the face of a drum
With your palm, not hitting the face of a drum with a drumstick.

You say there may be the sort of outrage induced
By liquor, trash talk, and poor strategy, but it will fade
The way a watermark left on a table by a cold glass fades.
I suspect winning this sort of game makes you feel godly.

I’m good and ready for who ever we’re playing
Against tonight. I am trying to imagine our enemy.
I know you are not my enemy. You say there are no enemies
In Spades. Spades is a game our enemies do not play.

Terrance Hayes

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

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Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Black Arts Movement

Welcome to Week 3 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing your Harlem Renaissance-inspired poems? Did you have an explosion of creativity? Did you use other genres like art or music to inspire your writing? Did you improvise your work, showing off the innate genius that has always resided within you?

Did you get sick in the middle of the week like I did and miss out on all the fun? Well, you’re in luck. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even go back another week to revisit the era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s journey on to the next era: The Black Arts Movement!

The Black Arts Movement began in 1960 and lasted through about 1975. These years were troubling politically, especially for blacks in America. This was also the era of the Civil Rights Movement, when leaders and outspoken orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rose to speak out for the freedoms of their marginalized black brothers and sisters. There were sit-ins and marches, boycotts, peaceful and violent protests. Black freedom seekers were often sprayed down with firehoses, attacked with police dogs, their churches and homes bombed by white supremacists.

As a result, blacks became angrier, more militant and radical in their activism. This decade also saw the birth of the Black Power Movement and the notorious Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. With all of this going on, it would be foolish to limit the Black Arts Movement to just that, an “arts” movement. No, it was just as much political and social as it was artistic.

The Black Arts Movement is radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America . . . The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic.

—Larry Neal (quote pulled from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Second Edition, edited by Henry Louis Gate, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay

The Black Arts Movement is without a doubt one of my favorite artistic and literary movements.

Not only because it was pioneered by black writers like myself, but because it was so unapologetically BLACK! These were people who were FED UP, and they didn’t give a flying fuck about political correctness. They were going to provide a voice to the revolution, a voice to the people who had been beaten and shut down by white supremacy. They were going to fight by any means necessary for the liberation of black people in America. Slavery might have ended 100 years prior, but they were by no means free…yet.

Likewise, the poetry produced in this era was revolutionary. Famous poets of the time include Amiri Baraka, Etheridge Knight, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and many others. The poems of the Black Arts Movement were simple, their messages made plain as the words written on the page. These writings weren’t meant to prove to whites that blacks were competent, or could understand sophisticated literary tropes. Nah, writers of the Black Arts Movement were done kissing up to Uncle Sam! Their poems were a communication to their fellow African Americans… Rise up. Be proud of who you are, of what color you are. Stand. Fight. Poems were usually performative, almost like what spoken word or SLAM is today. Usually written in free verse, the poems were very conversational, often musical, and adapted the vernacular characteristics of “black mass speech,” like a preacher’s sermon, for example.
One of my favorite poets of this time period was Amiri Baraka, who recently passed away in 2014.

His poem, appropriately titled “Black Art” sums up what this literary, artistic, social, and political movement was all about. To fully understand the scope of this powerful poem, you really must hear it, which is why I’m switching things up and giving you an audio poem to inspire your week of writing Black Art. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Harlem Renaissance

Welcome to Week 2 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy your first week of writing slavery inspired poems? I’ll admit some days were harder to write than others. Having to open those wounds that run deeper than the generations can be troubling. The fact that human beings could commit such atrocities against other human beings, often using Christianity as a defense of their actions, is still baffling to me.

If you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era slavery, feel free to do so! The themes I provide each week are only optional. Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s skip¬†ahead to the next era:¬†The¬†Harlem Renaissance!

I know. I’m brushing over about 50 years worth of great literature from the post-Civil War /¬†Reconstruction era, but I need to leave something to be desired for next February, right? ūüėČ

If you want to do your own research on the poets of this era, one of the most well-known was Paul Laurence Dunbar. (His poem¬†“Sympathy” inspired Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.) Another poet from this era was James Weldon Johnson, who wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.

The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920s and lasted until about 1940.

The Harlem Renaissance was like a great awakening of art and literature¬†for Black Americans. During this period, Black America saw a cultural explosion of creativity. It’s center was in Harlem, a district in New York¬†City, though it wasn’t¬†limited¬†to black writers and artists living in New York. In fact, it inspired a similar movement¬†known as N√©gritude among French-speaking blacks across the African diaspora, including in France, the Caribbean, and the West Indies.

While the era of slavery can be described as a time when most whites questioned the intelligence of blacks (remember those authentication papers written for Phillis Wheatley), the Harlem Renaissance was the confirmation of black intelligence, black excellence, black achievement, black genius, and all the above. There was an outpouring of publications not only in poetry, but also in the genres of fiction, drama, personal essay, music, dance, and visual art.

The Harlem Renaissance laid the ground work for black expression.

The creativity of black writers and artists of this period was driven by a sense of purpose, the artists using their craft to express a response to social conditions and to proclaim their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism.

The most famous poet of this time period is of course Langston Hughes. Others include Countee Cullen—whose Color (1925)¬†was the first book of poetry written by an African American to be published by a major American publishing house (Harper¬†& Brothers)¬†since Paul Laurence Dunbar—Jamaica-born Claude McKay (though he wasn’t the first “African American,” his Harlem Shadows was published in 1922 by Harcourt, Brace), Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Sterling A. Brown, and many more.

To get you started with this week’s Harlem Renaissance-themed poems, I won’t share a poem by Langston Hughes. No, that would be too easy. Everyone knows Langston Hughes!¬†Instead, I’m giving you this poem by the lesser-known Anne Spencer to inspire you for this next week of writing. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

White Things

Most things are colorful things—the sky, earth, and sea.
Black men are most men; but the white are free!
White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world—somewhere.
Finding earth-plains fair plains, save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of cowardice, as they passed;
The golden stars with lances fine
The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanced with their wand of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.

There are many different versions of this poem online. The above version came from the Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000), edited by Michael S. Harper & Anthony Walton

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space¬†for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and¬†your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Harlem Renaissance” poems to this post) so others can¬†read your poem. You can also tag¬†your posts¬†BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time… Slavery

February is finally here! Did anyone else think January was way too long?

…And too cold; it was definitely too cold!

If February is your month to reset your New Year’s goals¬†(particularly your writing goals),¬†here’s a suggestion for you…

Why not join a new writing challenge?

That’s right. Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) has returned for a third year, and this time I hope to see lots more participation. ūüėČ

For the uninitiated, BlaPoWriMo is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

Over these three years, I’ve explored various themes for the challenge. During its inaugural run in 2016, I gave you daily prompts based on poems from some of my favorite black poets, and last year, we spent a fortnight writing black love poems.

This year, I want to take you on a journey through the eras of black poetry/literature and art.

We’ll look specifically at the eras of slavery, the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and contemporary/today…

…Does black literature (as we know it)¬†still exist today? Some will make the argument that it does not

What are some of the reoccurring themes in these particular eras? Do poems from certain eras stand out more than others? Can you name the poets best known for their works written during a particular era?

Let’s kick off our first week of poems by exploring one of the most difficult and painful era’s of our country’s history: Slavery.

Not America’s brightest moment, when human beings were put in chains and treated (or should I say mistreated) as property all because their skin complexion was a few shades darker. But despite the hardships, the abuse, the oppression, many bright stars shined through.

I talk a lot about Phillis Wheatley, but did you know she wasn’t the first African American to publish a poem? While she does hold the titled of first African American to publish a book of poetry (Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773), the trophy for first African American slave to publish a poem belongs to Jupiter Hammon. Other poets of this era include George Moses Horton, also a¬†slave, James Monroe Whitfield, Benjamin Banneker, and Frances Harper, just to name a few.

Black poetry written during this period typically opposed slavery. The theme of freedom/longing for freedom ran deep within the lines. Some poems were often spiritual/religious in nature while others¬†revealed a strong influence¬†by the classics, signifying the intelligence and genius of blacks, which was pretty unbelievable to the whites of that time. In fact, Phillis Wheatley’s Poems¬†on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral opens with several authentication letters signed by white men to confirm that she, a black enslaved woman, truly¬†wrote the poems!

Ever since I was a child, Phillis Wheatley has always been an inspiration when it comes to poetry writing. And when I learned that I had a little Senegal and Gambia in my DNA, it basically solidified in my mind that I am related to her in some way or another. (A distant auntie, perhaps?)

To get you started with this week’s slavery-themed poems, I’m being a bit biased here and¬†sharing with you a poem of¬†Wheatley’s that I’ve posted in the past. It’s truly my favorite, and so eloquently written. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

I truly hope you will join me for another month of writing black poetry. You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space¬†for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and¬†your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “slavery” poems to this post) so others can¬†read your poem. You can also tag¬†your posts¬†BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Moonlit Madness

It still amazes me that I have 150 poems archived on this blog (give or take 5 poems that might have been revisions). Despite being able to write and post so many, 62% of those poems (don’t ask why I used such a specific number — you get the point) I never want to see again. Especially the ones I shared when I first started this blog. They’re just so bad! They don’t even get views anymore . . . if they ever got views to start with.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll muster up enough courage to share those older poems for a Throwback Thursday post . . . but today is not one of those days, so here’s a poems originally published July 3, 2015 for the Write or Die Wednesday challenge. Please note, in order to get the full eerie effect of this poem, you have to play the music with it!¬†


Moonlit Madness

It was 1:37 when she heard music.
Awakened in a glowing room,
moonlight seeping through blinds.
Down the hall, ascending,
descending notes echoed off
walls, a hauntingly beautiful
melody— like swimming
in the night; head under
water pouring into ears,
saturating her in silence.
More frightening than a
mysterious pianist in her home—
she owned no piano.

—Nortina

Charlottesville, 2017

“The light of the righteous shines brightly,
but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out.”
Proverbs 13:9

Jesus tells me I am the light of this world;
so let my light shine.
There’s a glow outside my dorm room window.
I dare not go to it—
won’t be a moth to the flame.
The spirit of fear consumes me.
I cower in a corner, wedged between bed—
sheets damp with sweat—
and wall—cool to the touch.
I hear their voices rising — “White Lives Matter” —
demons behind them chanting, White is Power.
These are not lights of salvation;
theses torches seek to light crosses in front lawns,
to set ablaze nooses that string up bodies,
bodies broken like my Christ’s, and I pray—
God, why have you forsaken us?
Sealed us in a world so consumed with sin and hate
that even at high twelve noon all I see is darkness;
my own hand, extended in front of my eyes, becomes invisible.
A lake of fire flows outside my window.
Skin white as alabaster turns blacker than my own.
Hearts hardened like stone.
There’s no pumping of blood, no echo of life.
A flat beat, a solid stomp, a marching in unison,
like the rigid motions of a rusted metal machine,
like the recurring lashes of the whip.
In my corner I hide, like a lamp doused by shade.
Tested by fire, my works amount to nothing
and my world will be encased in a blackness more
cursed than the skin I wish to shed to the knocking
at my door. The devil and his angels wait for me,
beckoning with their false light
too dim to pass the crack in the threshold.
Today is the day I decide whose shame I will bear;
if I will pick up my cross and
deny my life for light’s sake.
Planted on the top floor where all can see,
I lift my covering off my Head and release
a brightness so incorruptible it expels the darkness
from my door, my window, my campus, my town—
miles away. Blinding like sun reflected
in glass, even from space.
Let it shine, I hear my Jesus whisper,
Let is shine.

—Nortina


Some words I strung together in response to the horrific scenes coming out of Charlottesville, VA this week.

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Ode to My [Former] Crush

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for another blast from the past. This poem was part of my No Holds Barred Poetry Writing Challenge back in 2015. Originally posted January 27, 2015, it’s a bit of an embarrassing love poem with my iconic sinister twist, back when aggressive, possessive, borderline abusive love was the kind of love I craved (or at least wrote about—don’t judge me).

The guy I originally wrote this poem for is actually getting married . . . and not to me . . . not that I care—I don’t even like him like that anymore. I even deleted him as a friend on Facebook—not in a vindictive, love-scorned crazy lady kind of way; he just rarely posted anything. Oh, the fickleness of teenage love. (Yes, I still feel like a teenager when it comes to love and crushes and finding Mr. Right. See the original post to get the joke.)

I’ve gotten better at love poems since then. In fact, I spent the whole second half of February writing black love poems (some tainted with our darker histories), and the last few love poems I’ve written are actually quite beautiful. They’re not as twisted as my earlier ones (like that one about the woman who strangles her cheating husband while he eats a raw steak . . . Sorry guys, never posted that one).

This poem was originally untitled, but I thought to give it a catchy title that’s a bit of a throwback itself. I hope you enjoy the poem, and please don’t try to figure out who the guy is. Trust me when I say any feelings I had for him are loooong gone!


Ode to My [Former] Crush

You make my legs weak
my palms sweat
my feet tingle
my nipples harden at night
when I lay in bed
dreaming of you‚ÄĒ
these are the clichés you search
for to describe a crush
infatuation
first love.
I feel none of these things‚ÄĒ
only you
and the indescribable desire
to be near you.
Tell me how I should feel‚ÄĒ
snatch me up in your arms
thrust me into your love poem
discard the clichés
show me the reality of passion
how it relates to pain
take control of my heart‚ÄĒ
sweet nothings don‚Äôt affect me‚ÄĒ
squeeze my heart in your fist
whisper commands
how should I love
where should I touch
Don’t just kiss me
take my lips in your mouth
suck them blue.
Give me a reason to
succumb to you.

—Nortina

I Prefer My Body in the Morning

I prefer my body in the morning,
when there’s a faint taste of
last night’s dinner on my tongue,
when my stomach is leveled flat
like measured baking flour, and
growling from the calories
it burned in sleep.

I prefer my body in the morning,
when my thighs haven’t swollen
from too much salt, and my panties
glide over my hips like silk,
when the water that hugs my
waistline has receded, and the
stretch marks aren’t taut from
menstrual bloat or Mexican gas.

I prefer my body in the morning,
when I can turn to the side and
half see a figure in the full
length mirror, when I can breathe
in my gut and it not appear
too obvious, when I can squat
and a round buttocks starts to
take form, when I can tuck the
fat with the tails of my blouse
into my pants and not morph
into the shape of a pear.

I prefer my body in the morning,
when I can strut with confidence,
when men turn their heads, when
caking makeup becomes an
accessory instead of a mask,
when I’m three pounds lighter
than I will be after lunch,
before I skipped breakfast,
and binge ate dinner.

In the morning when I wake,
when I stare at my naked
reflection, cup my breasts
in my hands and push them up,
it feels almost enough—I feel
like I could be . . . enough—

—Nortina

June Writing Bug: What’s Next on the Agenda?

We did it! Yay! ¡Lo Hicimos! 

Now that I’ve shown my age ( ūüėČ ), let’s talk about writing, and writing A LOT.

After wallowing in my own self-pity for many months due to the incessant beast that is writer’s block, I’m happy to announce that I’ve caught the writing bug! For the last two months I’ve been writing nonstop, posting almost every day for April’s A to Z Challenge¬†and May’s Short Story a Day Challenge, and during the first week of May, I also participated in the poetry challenge, #fapalywo.¬†My followers have slowly started to come back to visit, now that I’ve assured them I won’t disappear again. It feels good to be back to form.

But now it’s June, and I don’t want to wear myself down by committing to another month-long writing challenge. I could already feel it starting to become a burden toward the end May. I was reaching for good short story ideas. The last week and a half of prompts weren’t all that inspiring, so I really had to force myself to write¬†something.¬†The ironic thing is the stories I posted in the last week of May seemed to have been the most popular. That is truly a confidence boost, so thank you. (You really like me!)

One of my goals for May was to write a new short story to submit to literary magazines. I haven’t had anything published since 2015, mainly because I haven’t written anything. For the second half of this year, it is my hope to change that. Unfortunately, that will have to wait at least another month, because I didn’t get to write the story yet. I have an idea for what could be a strong story. To give you the basic premise, it’s a redemptive tale about a wayward woman who wanders into a church service one Sunday morning and has a life-changing experience. I’m still working out the details in my head, but while that story is still in progress, another rose to the surface while I was deep in the trenches of Short Story A Day May.

In short story #10, “I Can’t Stay,” I was exploring a story that came to me in a dream a few years ago about a woman¬†who is running from her current boyfriend and has a ‚Äúchance encounter‚ÄĚ with¬†her ex/the one who got away. I brought it back and expanded a little more with short story #31, “To Rewind Time,” and I think short story #26, “A Mother Still,” will also be a part of that story arc. So I will spend this month further developing the story and bringing it all together, and hopefully by July, I’ll be back to submitting to magazines and receiving more rejection letters than acceptance notices. (Hey, you gotta laugh at these things sometimes).

One portion of the Short Story A Day May Challenge that I really enjoyed was novel week. It not only gave me the opportunity to do some further sketching for my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy, but I also got to revisit some characters I haven’t looked at in two years: Jessica, Whitmore, and Bruce, from my 2015 A to Z Challenge melodrama, Love Poetry.¬†And it gave me a wonderful idea—Why not write this novella (which I should have finished in 2015) for Camp NaNoWriMo in July? Camp isn’t as strenuous as the real deal in November; at least here we can choose our own writing goals, so if I don’t make it to 50,000 words, I won’t be a total failure. Camp will also prepare me for writing (and hopefully finishing) my first novel,¬†Lost Boy,¬†for NaNoWriMo in November. (My heart is pounding just thinking about it!)

So I took fifteen minutes to sketch out a quick outline for Love Poetry, which is slightly different from what I posted back in April 2015 but not too much, and for July (so you don’t think I’ve disappeared again), I’ll be taking a chapter out of fellow blogger,¬†Marquessa’s, book (I hope she doesn’t mind), and while all my focus will be on completing Love Poetry for Camp NaNoWriMo (what’s ironic is that I first attempted to write this novel back in 2014 for, you guessed it, NaNoWriMo ūüėÄ ), I’ll be re-posting my 2015 A to Z Challenge, along with other Whitmore and Jessica related stories (because I have more than a month’s worth). If you’re a new follower since May 2015, you’ll be getting a treat, and for those of you who’ve been here a while, a blast from the past!

Getting back to June, I have a few ideas on where I want to take this blog moving forward, but I need your help.

First, I am overdue for another serial story. If you want to check out previous (completed) serial stories, read the Buried Series from the beginning here, and my 2016 A to Z novella, 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths here. I thought my next series would be Oceanview, but while attempting to write Part 3 for one of the Short Story a Day prompts, I went completely blank. So that story goes back to the drawing board for now. However, I did write a few stories that are a little more developed and could possibly be expanded into a series. Below are the links to those stories. Which one do you think I should turn into a series? Vote in the poll, and I’ll reveal the winner next week!

For the Sake of Humanity

Widow

Dreams are Real

One Night Stand (from the “White Jesus” story line)

Dry Spell

 

Was there a story not included above that you would like to see in a series? Not a problem. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll consider it in the voting too.

Also in June I’m doing a test trial for a new Flash Fiction writing challenge. Last year, I hosted a short-lived challenge, Moral Mondays, which was fun, but too much of a commitment for me at the time. I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but I’m bringing back the Monday challenge, because we all need a little Monday motivation, right? This challenge will be One-Minute Fiction. As the title suggests, you’ll be challenged to write a flash story in one minute, no more no less, based on the prompt (a word, a phrase, a photo, whatever I’m feeling for that week). Sound promising? It should really light a fire under your bum and set you up for a whole week of writing! If it’s a success, I’ll keep it going; if not it’ll end June 26. (womp, womp¬†)

Other June personal blogging ideas:

  • Throwback Thursday – Share a post (fiction or poetry) from the past.
  • Fright Night Friday – Post a frightful (thriller, suspense, paranormal, etc.) story or poem every Friday night. (You already know I love a good ghost story.)
  • Book Reviews – I have a lot of book reviews in my arsenal. I think I might reserve these posts for Saturdays.

So what do you think? Are you excited for June? Do you think writer’s block is plotting its revenge? Would you be interested in purchasing Love Poetry¬†if I were to self-publish it? Do you plan to participate in the one-minute fiction challenge? Are you looking forward to the next serialized story? Or maybe you’re waiting for me to mention the one left unfinished…I’m being really secretive about it.

You’ll see why in due time… ūüėČ

By the way, are you enjoying these beginning of the month goal setting posts? They’re my way of holding myself accountable, but sometimes I think I’m just talking to myself. Prove me wrong and leave a comment!

English #frapalywo: Warrior’s Return

Love Haiku #8

I hear crickets chirp
in the fields as the door creaks
open, and the wind

blows your mint cologne
to my bed. Your boots tread the
carpet—home from war.

—Nortina


Written for English #frapalywo. #Frapalywo is a German poetry challenge for Mrs. Paulchen’s poetry week. All this week, we are writing poems about our theme, noise. Today we end the week with¬†one last prompt:¬†“in the night.”