How do you break
] the narrative?
How do you loosen into the nonlinear?
How do you let go?
In April, I took a class on short poems with Sarah Vap at Richard Hugo House—and last night, I took the poem I’d been working on from that afternoon to my poetry group.
They asked, “What was your process?”
The best answer is: “Take a class from Sarah.”
I stand by that.
But in the interim, here’s how I approached my poem.
(This is the reduced version. For the full experience, again, take a class from Sarah.)
- Print out a copy of a poem that speaks to you. (In class, we looked at many examples of different shorter-form lyric poets.)
- From a stack of images (old pictures or postcards, thoughts you’ve jotted down, anything that sticks—although I do think that the more visual and foreign, the better), choose a few and then write images in the margins of that printed poem. Short images. One or two words. Riff, but don’t force anything.
- Pick a number (x). From the poem you chose and the images you wrote, write a poem in x number of sections.
- Choose the word that speaks to you. Circle it. (This word will become a theme that runs through your poem.)
- Start a new page, and choose a different word (so many choices!). Write a new poem that uses the new word over and over and over again—as much as possible.
- Start a new page, and write one line. Turn the page.
- Whatever you want to do: short bursts, anything goes, turn the page each time. A lot of fresh pages.
- Now, take a little rest.
- The next day, in the margins of each page that you wrote, write more images that come to you. These are not whole poems or even whole poems. These are bursts.
- Repeat as many times as you want.
This is fun. This is play.
- Repeat this again over several days. The margins will be one Hell of a mess.
- Pull everything together into one place—a page in OneNote, another file in your computer, more pages in your notebook.
- Highlight the lines or images that still feel important to you.
- Write or type those images onto a new page or file.
- Take a good look, or wait. Take out anything you don’t need.
Maybe, take out more.
This experience took me way outside of my comfort zone. I like narrative, I like all the blanks filled in, and I feel a little edgy around fragments. But learning to write, however uneasily, with the fragments was good. It was even fun.