I've a new assignment from The Practice of Poetry. It comes from Kenneth Rosen, and it's called "The Black Sheep".
I call a written assignment that often provokes an unexpectedly deep emotional and visceral response The Black Sheep. Write a poem about or from the voice of someone who has been cast out or has voluntarily left the family: the drunkard, the thief, or the perpetrator of the otherwise unforgivable. The poem should confront the unforgivable deed and its mystery, as well as confront the judgment of those who determined to say no more and to turn their backs, which may be mysterious too. Our deepest feelings draw on our childhood expectations of unqualified love and acceptance, our terror of rejection and abandonment, intellectually incomprehensible but emotionally all too familiar. Ultimately, though not autobiographical, the poem should draw on your own dread of expulsion and exclusion, though it may be appropriate and desirable to side with the "black sheep."
While the poem is still in rough form, sort out the sounds, the high-pitched and intense or crying vowels, the swift quick ones, the low ones of woe, the awesome and august, the ludicrous or comically gruesome, the aggressive gutturals, the lusciously musical labials, the hideous sibilants, and the combinations that suggest strength on the one hand, little smells and smirks on the other.
Ask yourself what kind of sound pattern exists, where your poem begins on the vowel register, and where it ends, what consonant accumulations seem significant. Consider the extent to which the transgression and the family remedy are realized in images. Notice how internal rhymes, assonances, and alliteration expand sounds and create emphasis.