Perrin Kerns served as the Director of Writing at Marylhurst University for 15 years. She currently teaches literature and creative nonfiction for Prescott College and Portland State. This summer she will also be teaching at PNCA’s new MFA in Creative Writing. Her own creative work has taken her from lyric essay to digital story to personal narrative documentaries based on her lyric essays. Most recently her film about a miscarriage, “What I Can Tell You,” won the best short animation at the Oregon Independent Film Festival in Portland. She is teaching a class on the Lyric Essay in May for Literary Arts.
Perrin shared the following prompt, that starts with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye:
Read Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Sifter”
When our English teacher gave
our first writing assignment of the year,
Become a kitchen implement
in 2 descriptive paragraphs, I did not think
butcher knife or frying pan.
I thought immediately
of soft flour showering through the little holes
of the sifter and the sifter’s pleasing circular
swishing sound, and wrote it down.
Rhoda became a teaspoon,
Roberto a funnel,
Jim a muffin tin
and Forrest a soup pot.
We read our paragraphs out loud.
Abby was a blender. Everyone laughed
and acted giddy but the more we thought about it,
we were all everything in the whole kitchen,
drawers and drainers,
singing teapot and grapefruit spoon
with serrated edges, we were all the
empty cup, the tray.
This, said our teacher, is the beauty of metaphor.
It opens doors.
What I could not know then
was how being a sifter
would help me all year long.
When bad days came
I would close my eyes and feel them passing
through the tiny holes.
When good days came
I would try to contain them gently
the way flour remains
in the sifter until you turn the handle.
Time, time. I was a sweet sifter in time
and no one ever knew.
Then read some objects from Gertrude Stein’s —https://poets.org/poem/tender-buttons-objects
Choose some object from your kitchen or just from around your house and write about it as a metaphor for your own or someone else’s existence right now. Since we are all house bound this is a good one to get us to see our objects anew!
Tune in next Friday for another writing prompt! Let us know how you’re doing, and how your writing is going, and let us know if you have a prompt to share! Email Susan Moore, Director of Programs for Writers, at firstname.lastname@example.org.