Writing contrast through pandemic times

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 the poet, Susan Niz. She has been featured in live poetry shows in Minneapolis and Austin. Susan writes across genres. Her novel Kara, Lost (North Star Press, 2011) was a finalist for a Midwest Book Award (MIPA) for Literary Fiction. She has a Master’s Degree in Education, raises kids, has been a grassroots community organizer and conserves monarchs. She recently relocated from Minnesota to the Austin, Texas area where she is teaching poetry workshops.

In this time of crisis, we find huge contrasts in our lives. While we worry about meeting our own basic needs and those of our families, we are also touched by those who generously extend themselves to help others. While we feel isolated, trapped even, we resourcefully prepare and enjoy a simple meal at home which brings out feelings of profound gratitude.

While these contrasting circumstances cause stress, anxiety, and disruption to our daily lives, they also lend themselves to writing opportunities. Juxtaposition is a literary device in which putting sharply contrasting ideas next to each other heightens their meaning and emotional impact. By writing out the highs and lows we are experiencing, we can not only alleviate our own anxiety through the process of making tangible and concrete our struggle, we can gain perspective, process feelings, and connect with others by sharing what we write. This is what the writing of poetry has always done for us. It is a vehicle for universal truths and individual experience, which at this time, we can not afford to stray from.

This writing exercise has two parts.

First, write two columns or two lists. In the first, list the struggles you’ve personally experienced during this pandemic. Be specific.

In the second, write all the positives, all the moments of resourcefulness and heroism, the examples of hope. Be specific.

Next read through and choose one or two things that stand out to you from each column. Try to write about them together in a draft of a poem. Don’t worry about writing something clever, focus on specificity and small, grounded moments from your own experience.

See what comes of it. You could try several versions of the same exercise with different moments. Wishing you all hope, peace, health, and emotional wellbeing through continued writing.

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