Feature and Challenge #5: Sarah Howe by Foot Notes

Sarah Howe is a Hong Kong-born British poet, academic and editor. Her first collection of poems is Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), which won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. With extraordinary range and power, her poems meditate on hybridity, intermarriage and love – what meaning we find in the world, in art, and in each other.

We are extremely excited to announce that Sarah Howe will be contributing one of her poems to the 2015-2016 issue of footnotes. Because of this, we'd like to challenge you to think about the important way in which dualisms continue to shape our lives, and whether or not there is a way to transcend them.

Frenzied
"Maybe holding back
is just another kind
of need. I am a blue
plum in the half-light. 
You are a tiger who
eats his own paws. 
The day we married
all the trees trembled
as if they were mad – 
be kind to me, you said."

Challenge: In 6 lines of poetry or less, meditate on a binary or an opposition that defines your life currently, or that remains extremely important in the imagination of the world today (e.g. the gender binary, the binary of light and dark). And get submitting – the deadline for footnotes is the 15th of May!

Feature and Challenge #4: Nayyirah Waheed by Foot Notes

Nayyirah Waheed is the author of two poetry books, Salt (which she describes as a "journey through warmth and sharpness"). This collection of poetry explores the realities of multiple identities, language, diasporic life, the self, community, healing, celebration, and love’) and the recently released Neima. A US-based writer who has gone from strength to strength in recent years, Waheed's poems deliver searingly beautiful images and messages in the space of just a few lines.

"if
the ocean
can calm itself, 
so can you.
we
are both
salt water
mixed with
air."

Challenge: What is one mantra that keeps you going through the day? Write it down, making it as precise and concise as possible.

Feature and Challenge #3: Claudia Rankine by Foot Notes

Claudia Rankine (1963-) is a poet, essayist, playwright and the editor of several anthologies. Her most recent work, the book-length poem, Citizen: An American Lyric, won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry,  the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, among others – in addition, Citizen holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

Rankine's poetry often blends genres and explores the subject matter of race and the imagination. Although she experiments with many forms, Rankine often uses prose poetry (prose that uses the rhetorical devices of poetry) to explore ideas of truth in literature and politics. Some fantastic examples of her poetry include:

“Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.” (From Citizen)
“You are you even before you grow into understanding you are not anyone, worthless, not worth you. Even as your own weight insists you are here, fighting off the weight of nonexistence. And still this life parts your lids, you see you seeing your extending hand as a falling wave— I they he she we you turn only to discover the encounter to be alien to this place. Wait. The patience is in the living. Time opens out to you. The opening, between you and you, occupied, zoned for an encounter, given the histories of you and you— And always, who is this you? The start of you, each day, a presence already— Hey you—” (From Citizen)

Challenge: Write a prose poem in less than 100 words, about a political and/or social issue that is important to you.

Feature and Challenge #2: Don Paterson by Foot Notes

Don Paterson (1963-) is a Scottish writer, poet, and musician. His first poetry collection, Nil Nil (1993), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; God’s Gift to Women (1997) won both the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and Landing Light (2003) won the Whitbread Poetry Award and an unprecedented second T.S. Eliot Prize.

In 2002, Paterson published a book titled The Book of Shadows, which included hundreds of terse and astute and observations on the world in the form of short and succinct aphorisms. Some of these include:

"Falling and flying are near-identical sensations, in all but one final detail. We should remember this when we see those men and women seemingly in love with their own decline."
"All my teachers have been women. Though several men have taken me aside for an hour to tell me things they know."

We are excited to announce that Don Paterson will be contributing one of his aphorisms to the 2015-2016 issue of footnotes. As a result, our second challenge is for you to write and submit an aphorism.

Challenge: In 100 words or less, express a general truth and axiom by which you have come to live your life (or at least, by which you are trying to live your life.) Serious, silly, terse, lighthearted – how much can you deliver in a few short sentences?

Feature and Challenge #1: Yasunari Kawabata by Foot Notes

Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972) was a Japanese novelist and short story writer. His subtle, lyrical prose won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Characteristic of his works, including Snow Country (1956), The Master of Go (1972), and Beauty and Sadness (1975), are vignettes and evocative descriptions, delivered in a style echoing that of the haiku, a traditional form of Japanese poetry that focuses on nature and that emphasizes sharp concision. Here are some of our favourite quotations from Kawabata, all in 100 words or less:

"He was conscious of an emptiness that made him see Komako’s life as beautiful but wasted, even though he himself was the object of her love; and yet the woman’s existence, her straining to live, came touching him like naked skin. He pitied her, and he pitied himself." (48 words - Snow Country)
“In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the centre of the girl's face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it.”  (Snow Country - 85 words)
“She could not say why these rather inconspicuous green slopes had so touched her heart, when along the railway line there were mountains, lakes, the sea at times even clouds dyed in sentimental colors. But perhaps their melancholy green, and the melancholy evening shadows of the ridges across them, had brought on the pain. Then too, they were small, well-groomed slopes with deeply shaded ridges, not nature in the wild; and the rows of rounded tea bushes looked like flocks of gentle green sheep.” (Beauty and Sadness - 85 words)

Challenge: Tell a story by describing a scene in nature/a person using sensory imagery and metaphor... in 100 words or less. Try and stick to prose (even if you're not usually comfortable writing it) but also feel free to branch out and use poetry/anything else! 

The 100 Word Essay Challenge by Foot Notes


Concision is always a more difficult skill than verbosity. Often one well-crafted sentence can be more inspiring, informative and thought-provoking than a volume trying to express the same.

However, it is also more difficult to achieve. Therefore we’re issuing to all those interested our 100-word-essay challenge.

It could be an academic essay, a journalistic opinion-piece, or anything in between. You might want to synoptize an article you’ve already written; or even write an essay solely on one word, image, theme or event.

The purpose of this challenge is to recapture the original meaning of ‘essay’: a trial or an attempt.

Send us your essay using the "Submit" button, or via our email, submissions.cam@notespublication.com. Happy writing!