“A piece of writing is vulnerable when it exerts a feeling without being overcompensated by metaphors, excessive wordiness, and flowery language,” explains Munazza Abraham, a poet and the leader of the next writing workshop at Athenian Press. The class is one of many planned at the small nonprofit organization this year. Fluffy writing can sometimes act as a sheet to cover up the organic essence of what an author may have intended to share originally.
Although metaphors can be useful for writers, they can sometimes detract from the clarity of the author’s message. Abraham says she’ll discuss why writers shouldn’t “smother” their pieces with too much of this language. More specifically, she plans to focus on vulnerability and how writers channel their emotional exposure so their work connects with readers who may have similar life experiences.
“We never know how many lives we can touch until we put ourselves out there and reach,” Abraham says. “Not only should we write our truth but remember and capture the feeling of that truth.”
Currently, an employment counselor at StepUp Wilmington—which helps people overcome unemployment, poverty and economic instability—Abraham uses her love of writing by facilitating empowerment sessions with prose and poetry. She hopes to encourage individuals to claim their strength and success. Already in 2018 she self-published a 48-page chapbook, “Dear Vagina… Forgive Me,” of personal spoken-word pieces. The collection of poetry and confessions focus on taboo thoughts and behaviors, unique to the female condition. After having completed courses in clinical psychology from Capella University, Abraham plans to study for her PhD in the fall at the University of Baltimore Maryland as a clinical-community psychology PhD student.
The poetry workshop will span over two days; she will focus on cutting fluff in writing on the first day. Participants will be given a writing prompt, or they can free-write their own or bring a personal draft to edit during the workshop to practice the technique.
“We’ll cover how to dig deeper and convey the truth beneath the metaphor,” Abraham tells. “Participants will take a given metaphor to extend and fully express it.”
On the second day, participants will have the opportunity to present their writing samples. Abraham and workshop peers will give constructive feedback on the pieces. “We’ll discuss how to use the full depths of one’s voice by tapping into emotion, tone, breath, and restraint,” Abraham says.
Director and founder of Athenian Press and Workshops, Khalisa Rae, met Abraham when they worked together at The Carousel Center—a nonprofit resource for children who have fallen victim to child abuse. As spoken-word artists—an artist who publicly performs writing pieces with a focus on word play, inflection and intonation on stage—Rae and Abraham often found themselves reading their work in the same spaces around Wilmington.
“Wilmington is small and only has a certain number of places to perform and read your work,” Rae says. “There are very few black women poets in Wilmington as well, so Munazza and I connected instantly for that reason.”
No stranger to vulnerable writing techniques, Rae self-published a collection of spoken word poetry in 2014 called “Real Girls Have Real Problems,” which she also brought to stage earlier in the year. It covers similar themes as Abraham’s book, such vulnerability as a black female artist in a predominantly white or male arena. With today’s political climate, Rae sees a lot of value in this kind of writing. People who are open to letting down their guards can inspire others to step out into the limelight to share their stories.
“Exposure is how we break open the self and get to the heart of the matter,” Rae says. “I think vulnerability humanizes the writing and makes it more approachable—humanizing is so important to connect and bridge gaps. . . . By being as personal as possible, we can tackle political and social issues in a unique way.”
Rae is currently working on her second and third books. She plans to concentrate on sexuality, her childhood and desires—that which motivates her in the current political climate. Rae will sit in on the workshop to offer supportive participation for Abraham and attendees, and possibly offer feedback to participating writers as needed and pulling personal craft techniques from her own tool belt as a published author.
Athenian Press will host more workshops to center around unique aspects of craft not often discussed. Those with facilitation experience, teaching backgrounds or writers with published works are leaders Athenian looks to work with in the future.
Folks interested in attending Munazza Abraham’s poetry workshop can do so on June 9 and 16 starting at 6 p.m. Entrance requires a $7 to $10 donation.