Evolving Origins | Lesson No. 1: Blood|Lines in Poetry

The last theme is Blood|Lines. By this I do not mean your genetic lineage; I mean who and what makes up your poetic ancestry? Which poets’ blood pours into your lines? What were some of your first poems about? (Bonus points if you can recall any or all of the first poem you wrote.) In essence, to whom do you look back on as the godparents/begetter/guiding stars of your work?

Reading Assigntment

On My Poetry Mentors” by Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg

“Latin & Soul” by Victor Hernández Cruz (for Joe Bataan)

“In the Library” by Charles Simic (for Octavio Paz)

Writing Exercises

(1) Select a poem that influenced you early in your writing career. (I know it’s hard, but please limit to one.)

(2) In 2-3 sentences, recall why this particular work inspired you as poet. Try to remember details about your own life: how old you were, where you were living, what you were doing (school, work, etc) when you discovered it.

(3) Select 3 lines from the poem that strike you as particularly memorable.

(4) For this assignment, you have 2 options:

(1) Write a poem addressed to your younger poet self, and use at least one of the lines from exercise #3 (feel free to riff on it, change up the words) within the poem. The poem can be advice to your younger self, or simply reflection about the changes you’ve undergone since you’ve started writing. How have you changed? Where are you headed now? Whatever you like.


(2) Write a poem addressed to your poetry “mentor,” meaning the author of the original poem. Again, as with option (1), use at least one of the lines from exercise #3 (feel free to riff on it, change up the words) within the poem. What would you like to say to her or him? Again, this is an open assignment in terms of content.


Born to a Mexican mother and a Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a CantoMundo Fellow and the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists’ Collective, 2013). Her work is forthcoming or appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Bayou, Arts & Letters, Puerto del Sol, The Feminist Wire, Dialogist, B O D Y, Lana Turner Journal, Slice Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and elsewhere. In 2010, her story “A Way out of the Colonia” won the Editor’s Prize in Camera Obscura. A Leopold Schepp Scholar at New York University, she won the Seth Barkas Prize for Best Short Story and The Thomas Wolfe/Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Best Poetry Collection. Rosebud was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan where she earned an MFA in Poetry, and was awarded grants from the American Jewish League for Israel and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. She was a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she completed post-graduate research. A graduate of the 2010 Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theater, she is at work a new play MIDNIGHT IN MATAMOROS with Bob Teague of Truant Arts; it will feature music by Carlton Zeus.  Her plays have been produced in New York City, Washington DC and Toronto. Rosebud is an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and at work on her first novel, The Imitation of Crying. 

Mindfulness + Writing | Lesson No. 1: The Art of Paying Attention

Welcome to the Mindfulness + Writing lessons! I hope these lessons will inspire some great writing not only in the present moment, but arm you with tools and techniques for creating art (and, really, living) for the future.

So What is Mindfulness?

The textbook definition is:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

But, like all things, I encourage you to investigate this question as our weeks go on and find a definition for yourself!

For me, mindfulness can mean: the art of paying attention.

I’ve studied both Buddhist meditation (techniques and practices from which “mindfulness” largely arose) and yoga.  Both practices have helped me get to know myself, relieved anxiety and…..(surprise!)….helped me get into a more creative state.  Mindfulness, for me, has helped me both feel more inspired and find more tools of stamina to see works through to completion.  These techniques have also helped me get in touch with my subconscious on a regular basis (whee) so I can create from there and edit from the more conscious mind.

I look forward to supporting you and guiding you as you check in with self, explore this path and see if it helps your work, too! I think it will.


Laying the Foundation

Jon Kabat-Zinn is known as a foundational mindfulness teacher in the Western world.  You can actually study with him by checking out the video below.  This video is a guided meditation/deep paying attention/body scan technique (FYI, you can do this lying down OR sitting up in a chair 🙂

Key to this video….see if you can STICK with it.  It’s hard to pay attention!  But it’s a practice and a muscle we can build.


Reading Assignment | Mindfulness + Creativity 101



Discussion Assignment

What does it mean to you to “pay attention?”  What are the challenges?

Writing Assignment | Breath in, Breath out, WRITE!

After listening to and going through the youtube video above, move to the pen or computer.

See if you can WRITE the story of your body.  A lot of mindfulness techniques drop us into the body and breath to help us find the present moment (and to move out of THOUGHTS and into FEELINGS…..and how great to write from feelings)  The breath is always in the present moment, the body is always with us.

Pick one body part that you feel has a story.  Maybe it’s a scar, your knees, your back, your hair….anything.  See if you can sit for a moment and breath (inhale/exhale) and “listen” to the story of this part of your body.  Listening deeply is one of the gifts of the mindfulness practice that so helps in creativity, too.

Write out the story of that body part, in any format you wish for this week.  It can be a poem, article, fictionalized story, but just try to stay true to what you hear, in honesty.

Sarah Herrington’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Writer’s Digest and she was named a Poet to Watch by Oprah Magazine. She is the author of a collection of poetry, Always Moving (Bowery Books, 2011) and several nonfiction books, including Om Schooled (Addriya Press, 2012), and Essential Yoga (Fair Winds Press, 2013). In addition to writing, she is an advocate for mindfulness and creativity and is the founder and lead facilitator of OM Schooled Teacher Trainings. Sarah is a graduate of New York University’s English and Creative Writing programs and holds an MFA in Creative Writing through Lesley University.  She is a grateful member of the Bowery Poetry Club community and has worked for Gotham Writers’ Workshop and Girls Write Now. She divides her time between New York and California.