Karisma Price Recommends...

Poetry can be serious work. When writing my debut collection, I’m Always So Serious, soul and blues music became their own characters in the collection (so much so that I created a soundtrack for my book) and conjured memories of home. Being from New Orleans, music has constantly played in the background of my life and for some reason, I seem to always be drawn to the sad stuff. I love a good wail, cry, note that belts in my ears until the song fades. Once I stop my Viola Davis cry, I tend to think about why the music made feel that way. Was it the lyrics? The melody? The way the singer made me feel like I was the subject of the song? Often when I have writer’s block, I make erasure poems out of lyrics that are stuck in my head. It gives me the opportunity to find my own feelings in someone else’s words and be in conversation with them. When I’m really intrigued by a singer’s life, I write persona poems. When I first started writing poetry, I only wrote persona poems. That was because I was afraid of people learning about my real life and judging me. I’ve since gotten over that fear, but what I’ve learned from writing persona poems is that whether conscious or not, there’s a reason your subject fascinates you. Explore that feeling.

When that doesn’t help, I think I do what most writers do: I stop writing. It’s good to take a break from your specific genre or even practice another. After a horrible back injury in 2020 prevented me from bending my neck for long periods of time, I spent hours listening to the LeVar Burton Reads podcast (the king of PBS reads sci-fi to adults!). This led me to find joy in writing speculative fiction, particularly when I needed a break from rounds of edits for my poetry collection.
—Karisma Price, author of I’m Always So Serious (Sarabande Books, 2023)