Back to Basics

Identity inspired mayhem makes up some terrifying media. The last century of the last millenium is full of examples of absurd violence against people based on where they live and how they’ve placed their loyalties. Religious, political, ethnic, sexual identities put us at odds as often as they bring us together. Divided into tribes, it’s easy to forget our common humanity.

In Boston our workshops begin with short verbal bios: branch of service, deployments/experience, brief origin story. This can get repetitive after a few gatherings, saying the same things with the same people repeatedly. But it’s also grounding.

Identities establish our literary anchor points. What texts did we grow up reading? What heros do we eulogize? Who do we consider to be friends or enemies? Our identities say something about our perspectives. They say something about our values. They say something about our history.

One of the first workshop prompts I remember doing at The Old Oak Dojo in 2014, the summer that WW4 came out, was an early variation of “When I Say I Am.” This prompt is printed in the Warrior Writers DIY Manual. Collected by Kevin Basil into a neat volume available through, these prompts are well tested and powerful:


If I'd read the DIY manual, I might have avoided a few of the pitfalls that I stumbled through last fall with our workshops at the Suffolk Poetry Center. Warrior Writers’ DIY manual gives some useful advice on what to expect, and it also offers purpose and focus.

At Suffolk, the space is perfect. The Poetry Center is just the right size and set up for aspiring poets and poetry lovers. The time we set (6pm) is only good if you work in Boston, or you're a public commuter. The real failures were in my promotional and curricular efforts.

To those who showed up on time the first day of the fall workshop series at Suffolk, I apologize for the weak discussion about publishing. I should have come earlier and better prepared with good prompts. You might have read my excuses in my wrinkled suit. To the three individuals who came to the other workshops, and were brave enough to stay alone in the room with me for an hour to share your writing, know that I am grateful.