32 Contemporary Black Poetry and Poetics – Writing Prompts and Assignments

Authors: Anastacia-Reneé, Ariana Benson, Leona Sevick, James Smethurst

Target Group: Undergraduate

Originally from Flowering Furiously – Contemporary Black Poetry and Poetics (Introduction to Black Poetry) Syllabus

Writing the “Identity”—exploring belonging to groups (racial, ethnic, gendered, generational, and cultures)

Complete one of the three following free-write prompts:

  • Write about a personal rite of passage. What sights do you see, what do you smell, hear, taste, feel? Why is it important to you? Who were you before the rite of passage, and how did you change after?
  • What is your soundtrack for the week? In fourteen lines, list the sounds you’ve heard, the music that is the background of your life, the voices that you’ve heard speak or that reverberate in your head.
  • What is your season today? What does this reveal about how you’re feeling, what you’ve been thinking about, what your world looks like, what you want it to be like?

Writing Recorded/Public History

Writing prompt/homework activity: Choose a current event, a historical event, or an archival object (photograph, letter, etc.) that interests you and answer the following questions:

  • What is the prevailing myth of this piece—what/whose story does it most obviously tell?
  • How could you revise and/or undercut the narrative of this piece—what/whose story exists beneath the surface, waiting to be told?

Forms Received and Not

Homework Assignment (can be started in class, time permitting, and completed as homework):

  • Find a “traditional” sonnet written by a poet we are not reading in this class (students can Google sonnets and find a variety).
  • Compare the sonnet to Danez Smith’s “crown.” Make notes.
  • In a brief response paper (two pages), discuss how Smith’s “crown” departs from the traditional sonnet. In your response, also consider how Smith is using the sonnet form to address the Black experience.

Writing prompt (begin in class and finish as homework)

  • Rewrite a portion of one of the poems in this unit in a different received or experimental form. Reflect on these changes and then answer these two questions in a brief (one page) response:
    • How does it change the meaning/experience of this poem?
    • Does the new form offer new meanings/possibilities?

Writing Queerness

Writing Assignment:

  • Write a 20-line List Poem. “Here’s What I Want The World To Know…”
  • Write a 20-line Praise Poem for any person living or dead.


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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