I love how poetry (and most types of writing) can illuminate actions, items, and feelings that we might not normally explore or question.
For the past five years I’ve solely taught autobiographical poetry workshops. The work generated from these workshops is the perfect mixture of poetry, my lifelong love, and my inherent fascination with others. I think autobiographical work helps the writer and reader see their lives in another way.
One of my favorite writing prompts with my students is to have them write a poem about their pillow. Though scary scientific data suggests after a couple of years our pillows are weightier due to dust mite excrement, most of us don’t discard them often. Think about how many dreams you’ve had on the pillow, when you first got it, how many lovers have rested their head on it, how many times you’ve cried on it, stayed awake with worry, been bedridden with illness, how it held your propped up head as you read of Scout and Jem’s adventures. What about the times you’ve woken up with drool on your pillow? Or on hot July evenings flipping it over to feel the coolness of the other side? How many pillows are on your bed? Do you hug the pillow at night like one would a lover or does it get pushed aside in your sleep—maybe like a lover as well. How many decorative pillows are ceremoniously placed on the bed only when guests are expected?
How does this compare with other pillows in your life? When I was younger my father still used his Marine issued pillow and I still remember how it smelled of him. What about those throw pillows on your grandmother’s couch you used to take naps on?
If you’re interested in writing fiction, think of the pillow of your character. It’s an interesting way to get into a story.
Biography of Steven Reigns: Steven Reigns’ newest collection of poetry, Inheritance, is being released in May of 2010. A two-time recipient of The Los Angeles County’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist-in-Residency Grant, Reigns organized and taught the first-ever autobiography poetry workshop for GLBT seniors and edited an anthology of their writings, My Life is Poetry. Visit him at www.stevenreigns.com.