Some of you might know I started off life as a published writer with poetry. Although I haven't done much since the 1990s, after publication of my collected poems All the Wrong Places, I have kept an eye on the scene, building fascination about poems that tell a story and fulfill the narrative sequencing sought by readers of fiction.
Without further ado, here's Tom.
Poetry That Tells a Story
We'll start not with "poetry" but with "poetic" to lessen the clicking sound of readers mousing to another website.
"How poetic of you!" and "How poetic!" are common enough sayings, and what those expressions mean is pretty clear to everyone: poetry extending into prose, words used with greater intensity, more meaning packed into fewer words.
So what about when the storytelling of prose wriggles its way into a poem? We have three possibilities:
- epic poetry (Hello, John Milton and the Beowulf poet)
- prose poetry (Hello, Walt Whitman, father of the long line)
- poems as a series (Hello, Shakespeare's sonnets to the Dark Lady)
Modern technology gives us the "slideshow" effect as an example. Each photo is its own reality, yet together the images conjure a greater effect. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The same is true with a series of poems. They can be crafted, each with its own beauty, yet can also be compiled and organized to tell a story. Like flash fiction, poems can be short, impressionistic vignettes that "hint" at a larger story.
If novels are like the cinema, a series of moving pictures, then modern lyric poetry is the individual photograph, each viewed one by one. What is the functional difference of experiencing these two modes of storytelling?
My book of poetry, Bare Ruined Choirs, consists of twenty-eight poems that document the life of a relationship. Six years after the last, fading years of my first wife's life, I realized I had the makings of a story, a chronicle with a beginning, middle, and end.
The organization of the poems, though, is conceptual, rather than chronological to the order of their writing. The artistic, universal story supercedes the biographical--or perhaps the two blend together to the universal story of "love, life, and death."
If passages in novels can be poetic prose, then certainly a series of poems can be designed to tell a story. That's what I tried to do with Bare Ruined Choirs, anyway--to tell a universal story and to structure a tribute to a brave and tragic lady.
Thank you, Tom: this gives those wishing to venture into poetry once more a springboard. Stories are what writers love to tell, and shaping them as you have, into a book of poems that together form a narrative, yet stand individually rather well, might be the way.
Find out more about my guest here:
Tom Kepler Writing Tom Kepler Writinghttp://www.tomkeplerswritingblog.com/(Blog and Website)
Tom Kepler Writing/Wise Moon Books (Facebook Writing Page)
Tom Kepler at Smashwords