Lessons focusing on fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and the intercepts between, to provide inspiration and/or distraction.
- The Thickness & The Threshold: A Lesson With Alina Stefanescu
- What Might Have Been: A Lesson With Steve Edwards
- What Echoes Will Always Come Back: A Lesson With Hillary Leftwich
- Creating Emotional Urgency Using Anaphora & Parallelism: A Lesson With Kathy Fish
- The House and You: Intimate Spaces, Objects and Memory: A Lesson With Hannah VanderHart
- Populating Fiction in the Age of Social Isolation: A Lesson with Aram Mrjoian
- All That Lingers: A Lesson with Satya Dash
- A Lesson with Kim Magowan
- Epistolary Writing: a Shortcut to Earnestness & a Step toward Experiment: A Lesson With Tyler Barton
- Diving Through to the Other Side: A Lesson With Meg Tuite
- Evoking Deep Feeling in Narrative: A Lesson With Jennifer Wortman
- What Stays on the Page: Using Photos as Inspiration: A Lesson With Madeline Anthes
- Freewriting With Sentence Starts: A Lesson With Francine Witte
- How Did We Get Here?: A Lesson With Joshua Jones
- Switching Up Your POV For Deeper Access: A Lesson With Melissa Ragsly
- The Sky is a Story: A Lesson With Robert James Russell
- Let’s Talk About How Stories Get Started: A Lesson With K.C. Mead-Brewer
- Hoarding and the Fear of Scarcity: A Lesson With Michelle Ross
- WYSIWYG (A Piece of Writing in Which What You See is What You Get): A Lesson With Kaj Tanaka
- A Lesson With Lauren Slaughter
- On Obsession and Time and Imperative: A Lesson With Sara Lippmann
- Our Bodies, Our Feelings, Our Paratext: A Lesson With Erik Fuhrer
- The A-ha Moments We Never Go A-ha To: A Lesson With Jennifer Fliss
- A Muse In Nature: A Lesson With Ashley M. Jones
A Muse In Nature: A Lesson With Ashley M. Jones
Recently, it has been hard for me to write. Very hard. I’m not an everyday kind of writer anyway, but I’ve not even felt the pull of poetry in a small way during this strange time. But, I’ve been spending a lot of time outside—particularly in the sanctuary that is my parents’ backyard. There’s something new to discover each day there—the grass sits differently toward the sun each day, the birds sing a different song each morning, and the bees buzz with varied urgency to and from the flowers they pollinate.
This is where I rediscovered poetry. Where I found the will to write. Try this simple exercise and see what comes of it:
- Go outside, where it’s safely possible. If you suffer from really horrible allergies, please just look out a window!!! If it isn’t safe to stand outside (if you live in a metropolitan area in which social distancing literally requires 24/7 isolation), please look out a window or step out on a balcony if you have one.
- Breathe again, this time a little deeper.
- Close your eyes, and yes, take another breath. Listen.
- What is the world saying to you? Maybe the wind whispers something quick and bright. Maybe the sun is laughing—what’s the joke?
- Once you hear it, see it, smell it, feel it, go write it down. Don’t put too much pressure on what it is at first. Just translate your experience. Soon, you will see its shape coming clearer, and, I hope, it’s a doorway back into poetry, back into something somewhat positive.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC
in the universe of my parents’ backyard
i stood in the grass and the wind gave greeting—
it blew on my back, the small and the large of it
like a ghost lover’s hand—have all my lovers been ghosts?
and the wind blew around my neck,
trailing kisses of sweet air—a kiss to name my skin
as something loved and soft, as if created just for this—
the wind said, stand still, and it ran fingers through my hair—
my afro tied up in an african scarf and spilling over its side,
glowing black in the sunlight (which is its mother, it holds shadows
like a treasure, a moonlit gift).
the wind ran its fingers through my hair and over my arms
and through my legs and between my parted lips
and i have never known that God could hold me this completely,
could tell me, in one astounding breath
that i am loved. that i am healed and will be healed,
that healing can mean taking me out of this world and into heaven
that it can mean locking all my doors and telling me stay home
can mean the summer bringing fruit through the earth’s open mouth
and time bringing forth more time and more time and more—
and i know there will be a time when the wind
does not know my name and when i’m straining to hear
the voices of my ancestors when even your voice saying hello,
but i know that will be healing, too,
that a chill always makes way for a grateful warmth.
Ashley M. Jones holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press 2017), dark / / thing (Pleiades Press 2019), and REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press 2021). Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, she co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.