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National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

Erika George

(From left to right: Paisley Rekdal, Elphitha Tsoutsounakis,
2019 Tanner Lecturer Maya Lin, Erika George, and David Roh)

In honor of National Poetry Month, Paisley Rekdal -- Professor of English, Poet Laureate of Utah, and former Tanner Humanities Center Fellow -- has graciously provided us with a poetry prompt:

Around 966-1017 AD, a Japanese author named Sei Shonagon wrote one of the most delightful and formally inventive books of poetry and prose to date: The Pillow Book. It’s a collection of lists, poems, anecdotes, complaints, philosophical musings, and scenes from Japanese court life—scenes to which Shonagon herself was often privy, having served as court lady to the Empress Consort Teishi. My favorite parts of the book are the lists Shonagon compiles from images she came across in daily life, lists with titles like “Embarrassing Things,” “Things That Make the Heart Beat Faster,” “Hateful Things,” or “Delightful Things.” Shonagon’s lists are both charming and historically fascinating, since her images not only tell us something about herself and what she loves—black cats with white bellies, for example, or silk clothes scented with incense—but also about life at court.
Your prompt is to compose a daily list of images gathered under a single theme. What are the images you’ve seen today that inspire delight? What images raise the hair along the back of your neck? What colors or fabrics give you a calm feeling? What items in a home—yours or someone else’s—produce feelings of shame? What objects inspire jealousy? What sounds do you hear now when you walk down the street? What smells do you miss? Make a list of five to ten images that you either see, or can recall, that give you a specific physical sensation, or emotional reaction.   What lists will compose your Coronavirus Book?

Please send responses to Susan Anderson at  We will share on social media throughout April. 


Last Updated: 6/30/21