Writing Prompt: The Southern Boy’s Dictionary Entry

by Laura Fayer

This week’s writing prompt was inspired by Macnolia by A. Van Jordan. If you haven’t already read the book, stop reading this blog right now & go buy you two copies: one for yourself & one for someone who loves words as much as you do. (Go ahead. I’ll wait. This blog isn’t going anywhere.)

Okay, now that you’ve read Macnolia, you know that Jordan’s book has several poems based on dictionary entries. Who knew, for example, that you could get such a beautiful poem out of the word from? Here’s an excerpt of “From” by A. Van Jordan:

from prep. 1. Starting at (a particular place or time): As in, John was from Chicago, but he played guitar straight from the Delta; he wore a blue suit from Robert Hall’s; his hair smelled like coconut; his breath, like mint and bourbon; his hands felt like they were from slave times when he touched me—hungry, stealthy, trembling. 2. Out of: He pulled a knot of bills from his pocket, paid the man and we went upstairs. 3. Not near to or in contact with: He smoked the weed, but, surprisingly, he kept it from me. He said it would make me too self-conscious, and he wanted those feelings as far away from us as possible; he said a good part of my beauty was that I wasn’t conscious of my beauty. Isn’t that funny? So we drank Bloody Mothers (Hennessey and tomato juice), which was hard to keep from him—he always did like to drink. 4. Out of the control or authority of: I was released from my mama’s house, from dreams of hands holding me down, from the threat of hands not pulling me up, from the man that knew me, but of whom I did not know; released from the dimming of twilight, from the brightness of morning;from the love I thought had to look like love; from the love I thought had to taste like love, from the love I thought I had to love like love.

With that in mind, it’s time for you to write your own poetic dictionary entry. (The trick to this poem is picking a word that has enough definitions to give you some options. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, take on the word “run.”)

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2 responses to “Writing Prompt: The Southern Boy’s Dictionary Entry

  1. I’m considering assigning macnolia as my critical reading book for my expository writing class this term 🙂 love love love that book!!

  2. Way back when, I heard Jordan read with Marilyn Nelson. For a class, I purchased the book but we never got to reading or discussing it. Ever since, it’s been on my bookshelf, mostly unopened. I’ve skimmed through it but have yet to find my entry into the world. Maybe I’ll give it another try soon enough.

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