Luther Hughes’ You Smell Like Outside: A Cute Little Syllabus for February
“You Smell Like Outside” is Luther Hughes’ wonderful column for Frontier where he seeks to answer the question every month: can poetry help us with our real, day-to-day life? For February, Luther’s continuing his series, A Cute Little Syllabus—a new cannon featuring works by poets of color. With each syllabus comes a prompt and exercise, which you can submit here. Luther will select and publish one of your poems with each new Syllabus!
JUST FUCKING SAY IT
The art of telling: The old saying: “Show, don’t tell.” But, sometimes we fall into the beauty of poetry, of language, so much that what is meant to be said gets lost. We get caught up in showing. However, there is something beautiful, too, in saying, “I am sad today,” instead of illustrating the act of sadness. Or sometimes, straightforward revelations like, “You must change your life,” in “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” by Rilke, makes use of all the showing. So, how does one “just fucking say it?”
WRITING EXERCISE PART 1:
- Write a paragraph of 10 sentences about the closest object to you. Make it as poetic as possible.
- Must have at least 3 metaphors or similes
- Must have at least 3 images
- Must end with 1 revelation
- Type paragraph
- Make 3 copies
- Post-Romantic by Paisley Rekdal
- 100 Bells by Tarfia Faizullah
- In Defense of Candelabra with Hands by Nicole Sealey
- Afghan Funeral in Paris by Aria Aber
WRITING EXERCISE PART 2:
Revise your paragraph so that it addresses the audience.
WRITING EXERCISE PART 3:
In your paragraph, change at least 3 of the sentences to questions.
- I Walk Into Every Room and Yell Where the Mexicans At by José Olivarez
- This Sign is Available by Taylor Johnson
WRITING EXERCISE PART 4:
Rewrite all the metaphors or similes out of your paragraph.
WRITING EXERCISE PART 5:
- Rewrite your paragraph to have 9 sentences with images.
- Must leave the revelation sentence as is.
- Play with the placement of the revelation sentence.
Lue’s selected poem from January:
The scent of pineapples thickens the air. Crow
blessings splatter the road. I go. I go. A step ahead
of one who falters behind. We are not competing
on this near non-existent footpath. We are merely moving
according to the caprices of shoes or legs that may
be still craving warm bed clothes. I pass
by a group of huddled fisherwomen with woollen
scarves around their heads and ears. They smile
at me and wave. I do the same. We are friends,
even though we cannot speak with each other
or meet up at each other’s homes. I would love to
be invited, but they wouldn’t know what
to do with me. So our friendship sticks to the morning road.
The man who plays old Tamil songs when he opens
his tea shop, looks up and almost smiles above the aromatic
steam of his cauldron-sized saucepan. The pineapple
seller is still asleep on his hand cart. I stroke
the rumps of cows as I jog. Smile at dogs,
even the ones on leashes who pull
their keepers’ man-servants along. Some still
bleary eyed. Some alert and proud
of their wards. I don’t smile at men. My feet are nimble
over dung and other discards. My ears sharp. My eyes
turning one eighty degrees as I amble or speed walk
if you will. But the morning is good and clean.
The morning is all mine. I have trained my senses
to enjoy and be watchful at the same time. I
have years and years of practice. And one
day I know I will bend down to pick up a fallen
flower. Hold it in the palm of my right hand and
bring it home. Another day perhaps, it will be a lost dog.
Shikhandin is an Indian writer who writes for both adults and children. Her short story collection Immoderate Men was published by Speaking Tiger. Her illustrated book for children “Vibhuti Cat” was published by Duckbill Books. Shikhandin’s accolades include, winner 2017 Children First Contest curated by Duckbill in association with Parag an initiative of Tata Trust, winner Brilliant Flash Fiction Contest 2019 (USA), runner up Half and One Short Story Competition (India), Shortlist Erbacce Poetry Prize (UK), first runner up The DNA-OOP Short Story Contest 2016 (India), 2nd Prize India Currents Katha Short Story Contest 2016 (USA), winner Anam Cara Short Fiction Competition 2012 (Ireland), long list Bridport Poetry Prize 2006 (UK), finalist Aesthetica Poetry Contest 2010 (UK), Pushcart nominee by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2011 (Hong Kong). Shikhandin’s work has been published worldwide. Notably in HuffPost India, Scroll.in, Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), Eclectica (USA), Per Contra (USA), Markings (Scotland), Himmal Magazine (Kathmandu), Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine (UK), The Nth Position (UK), Mascara Literary Review (Australia), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), Stony Thursday (Ireland), The Little Magazine (India), Out of Print (India), Sybil’s Garage (USA), Pushing Out the Boat (Scotland), South: A Journal of Poetry (UK), Off the Coast (USA), Etchings (Australia), Silver Blade (USA), Going Down Swinging (Australia), Scoundrel Time (USA).
Written in response to December’s “Reaching for Joy” Prompt:
The infamous, “won’t you celebrate with me,” by Clifton, seamlessly celebrates living another day despite what has tried to kill them. I ask you, what has tried to kill you, not just physically, but mentally? What are some one your struggles and how have you gotten past them? How did you celebrate your triumph. In 10 lines or less, write about triumph. Submit your creation here!
Luther Hughes is a Seattle native and author of Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018). He is the Founding Editor in Chief of The Shade Journal, Executive Editor for The Offing, and Editor-at-Large of Frontier Poetry. A Cave Canem fellow, his work has been published or is forthcoming in various journals including, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, TriQuartlery, Four Way Review, and others. Luther received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful.