What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How to write a poem about Ferguson

Video by Button Poetry.

At the heart of Mahogany Browne’s poem “Working Title” is a question: how does a poet begin to address the killing of Michael Brown?

Browne, who began working as a full-time writer in 2006, began the poem in response to Brown’s death. “I definitely felt that I needed to respond to what was happening around me, otherwise I would go crazy,” she said. “[But] I found I could not write the poem. I kept writing titles. So I said, what would happen if that was all it was?”

The poem itself shows what happens: with plenty of intentional blank space and staggered lines that force the eye all around the page, its form compels the reader to engage with the struggle it describes.

“It felt like a puzzle. It felt like, this is off. It didn’t allow you just to read through it. It made you stagger your reading,” she said. “Then you really are involved. You’re really invested in what the language is doing and what the story is doing, and maybe then you’ll see the tension in what it is to live.”

Browne uses multiple approaches to language and form to correct the misconception that there is one particular way to write, she said. “I’m definitely speaking for young people that were told, like I was told in high school, that ‘That’s not a poem because you’re using the wrong language.’ I’m definitely speaking for the artistic, creative bodies that refuse to conform,” she said.

Browne was one of a group of poets — including Amanda Johnston, Jonterri Gadson, Jehrico Brown and Sherina Rodriguez — who initiated Black Poets Speak Out, a movement that began with black poets posting videos of their work and statements online in response to the Nov. 24 decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

“Working Title” is meant to prompt discussion and education among audiences about the frequent acts of violence that people of color face, she said.

“That poem became an anthem for me to say, look, we’re still having this discussion, we’ve always been having this discussion, and while you’re probably new to this … it’s not new to us. We’ve been talking about it. We live it every day,” she said.

Working Title

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write a poem about ferguson

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow a black man dies and no one makes a sound

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

llllllllllllllllEverywhere is Ferguson

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllWhen the moonrise sounds like gunshots

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to teach your babies to walk and not run, ever.

lllllllllllllllOr

How to teach your babies to carry a wallet the size of your smile

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow not to smile & make yourself a target

Or

The name of this poem is:
lllllllllllllllHow to write a poem the same size of Emmett Till’s lungs

lllllllllllllllafter they pulled him from the Tallahatchie River

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to write a poem about America’s thirst

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllBlack blood’ll keep you thirsty

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllI’m still thirsty, An American Horror Story

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to write an escape route from a tornado

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to write an escape route when the tornado’s name

lllllllllllllllis Stop & Frisk

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow walk the streets without fearing someone will cut your neck open

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to walk into a boardroom without fearing someone will cut your legacy open

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to walk without asking for it

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to walk without asking for it

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to determine what “asking for it” looks like

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow “asking for it” feel like a church bombing

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to not intimidate nobody in 3 small steps

lllllllllllllllOr

lllllllllllllllHow to use your science books as Teflon

lllllllllllllll& how that still might not work

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write about the one time you held a gun

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write about the one time you had a gun pointed to your face

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write about the one time you had a gun pointed to your face

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write about the one time you had a gun pointed to your face

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write about the one time you had a gun pointed to your face

lllllllllllllllOr

How to write a poem from the perspective of a cop’s gun

<lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll> a cop’s tazer

<llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll> a cop’s gun

<llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll> a cop’s boot

<llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll> a cop’s baton

lllllllllllllllOr

The name of this poem is:

lllllllllllllllHow to write poem without r e p e a t i n g yourself

No, the name of this poem

Ain’t got no namellllllllllllllllIt’s a serious of numbers

The numbers warn me sweetly:lllllllllllllllllllllllllllll“You should be afraid of having a son”

The Latest