Writing Prompt: Hybrid Instructional for a Crisis (after Diane di Prima)



Recently, a lot of my circle on Facebook were sharing Diane di Prima’s “Revolutionary Letter #14” from the book Revolutionary Letters, and it made me think about ways that writing and reading literature help us mitigate various kinds of crisis in our lives, often by providing an explicit or tacit guide for coping.

For today’s prompt, I’m going to read some of the explicitly instructional pieces from Revolutionary Letters, and then we’re going to compose our own hybrid instructionals for a crisis. In the prompt, the crisis you engage is up to you, but you must (a) write in a hybrid genre explored in Family Resemblance (lyric essay, epistolary (like di Prima), poetic memoir, prose poetry, performative, short-form nonfiction, flash fiction, or pictures made of words), (b) use at least one technique you highlighted in your craft and style journal, and (c) compose part of your instructional in second-person imperatives where the subject of your sentences is (you) understood.

Over the past decade and a half, I have observed crisis rhetoric applied to many areas of my instance, both on micro and macro levels and often overlapping: from 9/11 to the crisis in the humanities, from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina to the current crisis of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, from the ramifications of the financial crisis/Great Recession on my family to families being torn apart by the detention of undocumented immigrants. It sometimes seems that crisis mode is being hypernormalized, and it’s the normalization of crisis or the ability for crises to run parallel to what we might consider our normal, quotidian existence that this prompt engages. How do we cope? What wisdom and knowledge about crisis can we impart through our writing?

For Later
As with di Prima’s book, which she wrote off and on for over a decade, this mode lends itself to serialized writing. Perhaps you will find you want to explore the hybrid instructional from other vantage points or with constraints that differ from this prompt. Perhaps you will want to experiment with all the hybrid genres identified in Family Resemblance.