Delights

Welcome to Austin Bat Cave’s Virtual Literary Salon. Over the next few months, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite writers reflecting on the current moment and presenting writing prompts and literary challenges that will hopefully get you inspired and creating. We welcome discussion and your input. Each week, you’ll be able to comment on the post and share your own thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Please tell a friend! And if you’re able to, consider making a contribution to Austin Bat Cave and help support our creative community.

Today’s writing prompt is brought to you by Allison Grace Myers. Allison received her MFA from Texas State University, where she held the 2014 - 2017 W. Morgan & Lou Claire Rose Fellowship. Her work has appeared in various literary magazines including Crazyhorse, Texas Review, ImageJournal, and Gulf Coast. She is also the winner of the John Steinbeck Award for Fiction, and her essay “Perfume Poured Out” was listed as a Notable Essay in the 2017 Best American Essays.


During this strange time of social isolation and collective anxiety, I have been trying to focus on the word “delight.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it difficult to read anything for more than a couple pages at a time, so Ross Gay’s collection of mini-essays, The Book of Delights, has been a perfect companion.

In each of these 100 delights—that’s what they are, not quite essays, not prose-poems, but delights themselves, tiny gifts —Gay calls attention to something he finds delightful. A random selection of a few chapter titles:

·       The High-Five from Strangers

·       Writing by Hand

·       Nicknames

·       “Stay,” by Lisa Loeb

·       Public Lying Down

·       Judith Irene Gay, Aged Seventy-Six Today!

·       Flowers in the Hands of Statues

·       Reckless Air Quotes

I am trying to follow Ross Gay’s lead, especially now, as I find my mind so easily slipping into worry, lethargy, frustration. I’m trying to focus on—to be on the lookout for—mundane delights.

This morning, feeling restless and agitated during the third hour of wandering around the quarantined yard with my 14-month old son—as he pointed to every single thing he saw with the endless refrain of “That! That! That!”—I tried to re-frame this endless repetition as form of art. My son’s pointing at that, that, that is not so different, really, from what Ross Gay is doing: challenging me to pay closer attention.

That? A delight?

That! A delight!

PROMPT:

Write a delight of your own, in the spirit of Ross Gay’s essayettes. Gay starts with the particular and then expands his perspective, meditating on what that delight might mean for him, for others, for the social/political reality of the world he inhabits.

First, commit to a period of time—perhaps a day, perhaps a week—during which you will notice specific things that unexpectedly delight you. Write them down. You might be delighted by a stranger’s outfit (observed from your six feet of distance), or by something that the HEB clerk says. You might be delighted by a specific gadget in your kitchen, or by the way a particular word feels on your tongue. Try to include at least one delight that you know most people find annoying or distasteful, but that you adore. Write all these delights down. Make a list.

Then, choose at least one delight from your list, and write a mini-essay about it. What is it about this thing—this particular item, phrase, gesture, etc.—that so delights you? What is your sensory experience of it? What memories does it call to mind? What questions does it raise? What might it represent or suggest about you, or about this time of pandemic isolation that we are all experiencing?

Share your comments and reflections in the thread! We want to hear from you <3