On Sept. 16, 2022,Alexis Lawson hosted a poetry workshop. The African American Cultural Center and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies department co-sponsored the workshop

The event was on the second floor of the Witherspoon Student Center. Upon entering the room, guests were greeted with displays of Black art and Lawson’s poems. Four tables were lined at the front of the gallery room with pencil and paper for participants. The workshop started with casual chit-chat between Lawson and contributors.

Lawson powered up her slideshow titled “Find your Fire, Let it Burn” before delving into the workshop. First, she had people take turns introducing themselves. Next, Lawson explained the rules of the event with an emphasis on being comfortable and personal boundaries. Then the interactive portion of the event began. 

The first activity was a 7-minute journaling session where participants  had to include the words:  lavender, cardigan, wrinkled hands, golden hour and popsicle. The journal could be a short story or poem. During the 7 minutes, Lawson played music to help soothe participants. After the time was up, people had the opportunity to share what they wrote. 

The next part of the workshop explained the parts of a poem. Lawson identified lines?, stanzas and rhyme schemes as the essential elements of poetry. She then used different poetic styles to exemplify her lesson. For lines, the poem Harlem by Langston Hughes was used. For stanza, The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur. Lastly, the example for rhyme was Lose Yourself by Eminem. Lawson stated the most common rhyme scheme is ABAB. She then emphasized the importance of creative control stating, that it was okay “..to spell a word different to make [the audience] get it…”.

After explaining the parts of a poem, Lawson moved on to the process of developing an idea. She described different inspirations people have for writing poems. Lawson gave  examples of lying big, having a conversation, and talking to yourself as ways to develop an idea. Then she gave participants time to brainstorm their ideas.

After giving time for guests to brainstorm, Lawson showed two spoken word poems. The first was Footnotes for Kanye by Jasmine Mans and the second was Rape Joke by Belissa Escoloedo and Rhiannon McGavin. Lawson took time to ask participants what they noticed about the poems and how they contrasted. 

Next, Lawson began to describe what it means to dig deeper into poetry. She emphasized that comparison is key. Additionally, she gave the example of personifying an inanimate object. 

In the final part of the event, Lawson showed a slide with different online sources for writing poetry, including RhymeZone, Syllable Counter, and others. She then gave guests 20 minutes to write a poem based on the ideas brainstormed earlier. Once again, Lawson played music while people wrote. At the end of the 20 minutes, people took turns sharing what they wrote and giving feedback. 

Alexis Lawson closed the Poetry Workshop with insightful remarks. She left the audience with the words, “There’s creativity in every kind of writing.”

Nubian Message had the chance to briefly speak with Lawson after the event. 

Nubian Message: What inspires you to be creative?

Alexis Lawson: I think life being boring inspires me to be creative because I am too extra to live a dull life…Trying different arts and things helps me make my life more exciting because I’m in charge of my own life…Being creative allows me to try different things without the pressure of being perfect at it…

NM: Why do you think it is important to inspire other people to write?

AL: I think that over the years we have lost a lot of the meaning behind our words and behind how far a story can go. And not just a story in what we traditionally think of a story [or] a book but someone’s life story or someone’s conversational story that you leave behind when you speak to a person. I think we have forgotten how impactful those things can be…I am always 1encouraging people to write. If not write, speak. If not speak, think because…[if not] we will live in a world where people are always conflicted. 

Alexis Lawson hosted a poetry workshop where participants were able to hone their writing and learn new skills. To hear more thoughts like this, follow her @HerBlackHand