Monday, October 28, 2013

I don’t write POETRY either

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the writing conference I attended (quite a few years back now) where an editor read aloud a page of my work then made a rather sharp comment about being “careful about the difference between poetry and split line prose.” Truth? It gutted me. I went back to my work and tried to figure out a way to weed out the split line prose. I reviewed my favorite poetry collections…checked all the poems magnetized to my refrigerator…reread favorite verse novels by Sharon Creech, Jacqueline Woodson, Sonya Sones, Ellen Hopkins, Caroline Starr Rose, Guadalupe Garcia McCall…delved into my beloved Paul Fussel’s POETIC METER & POETIC FORM for the zillionth time…

Here’s what I discovered.
There’s split-line prose in a great deal of poetry. And LOTS of it in verse novels. Because, to build an entire novel, you may want the reader to be able to hold onto plot, syntax.  That requires the incorporation of prose elements. THE ART LIES IN…
  • where you choose to break each line
  • creating subtle internal rhymes and motifs, and sometimes even poems within poems (see Hopkins’ work)
  • the juxtaposition of abstract verses with strong, linear text
  • choosing only the best words, unobstructed by grammar traditions but constricted by holding onto the verse format, to get close to the bone--to depict raw, visceral emotion
  • using the freedom and flexibility of the verse structure to reflect shape, movement, music, the act of reading, and other abstract creative notions through form
  • understanding the value of structure, white space...choosing what words to leave off the page
It’s funny. I think of myself as both a POET and NOT-A-POET. I do not know whether this is because I am afraid to commit; because I’m really not sure; because I fear I won’t be fully accepted by either more definitive poets or more traditional novelists; or because I am happy in this nether-space called VERSE NOVELIST—it’s where I sing.

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