Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Glance at Narrative

        "Tell me a story” may have been how the literary arts began. 

Telling stories the job of much early poetry, whose “poetical” aspects--the refrains and the tropes (those “rosy fingers of dawn” and “wine dark seas”)-- served, in part, as mnemonic devices, so that the poet would either not forget what came next, or could fill in time until he remembered it. 

But Homer, I think, had some pretty great ideas.  Narrative--an underlying story or even a hint of story--can help to keep a reader engaged in a poem in ways that even beautiful language may not.  This seems to me to be especially true in longer pieces where narrative, even small fragments of narrative, can really help to keep a reader engaged.  (You thought, for example, that you wanted to tour the Wasteland on foot, but Eliot’s little bits of implied story sprinkled throughout the poem--”Marie/Marie, hold on tight,”-- serve as friends who repeatedly stop and give the reader a lift.)

Narrative can appear in many different ways in a poem--sometimes so slyly that one can't exactly find the story, but glimpse the mere silhouette of a story, sometimes even just a curve of a silhouette. Yet, even that little bit of story still always feels like a friend to me, as reader, helping to carry me along. 

So, here’s your task for the prompt.  Simply think of some story in writing your poem--it could be the story of a moment or of a lifetime--and it need not be fully detailed.  The poem may offer a bird’s eye view of the story or the small close-up of a magnifying glass, maybe just a sidelong glimpse.  (It does not have to be a story of human beings; it could be the story of a rock or a raindrop.)  

      And, I repeat!--the story does not need to be told in full (unless you really do have a ballad in mind!) 
Though, honestly, it would be great to distill your piece, keep it compressed, since we are writing poems or prose poems, and not full short stories.  (Keeping something short is very hard so I’m not setting a word or line limit--only posing the challenge.)

I put up some drawings I’ve done that could be used in conjunction with your poems if you like; I tried to pick pieces that have story-like elements.  NO REQUIREMENT TO USE ANY--but if you do use them, please give credit to me, Karin Gustafson.

Finally, an apology for not participating much of late--it’s been a very hard few months for me due to family illness, job, and country. I am so grateful to Kerry for letting me stay on with the group despite my inability to truly play along!  I will be in airport when this posts, but I will be on my way home and will comment as soon as I can.



  1. Loved the prompt, K!💖 Sharing (what I hope is a narrative poem) "The Moon and I" Happy weekend, everyone!💖

  2. Karin, I love your art. Thanks for the prompt!

    1. Thank you, Susie. Hope all well. K.

  3. Your artwork is lovely, K. The surreal bird is my favorite. And I like the prompt, too... Who doesn't love a poem with a story? :-)

  4. It's so good to see you prompting again Karin! I too am on the road… But I had so much time to think that I wrote stuff down

  5. Luv the drawings, nice prompt

    much love...

  6. Thank you for the prompt - and apologies if I can't get around to others posts

  7. I'm just about to embark on this wonderful prompt and am stuck on choice of image. It might take a while...

  8. Oops, sorry - was correcting a link at Poets United earlier and forgot to change the label. No, Mary has not posted here; I have, twice. Please can someone remove the first (Mary) link?

  9. Aww don't worry Rosemary❤️ I went ahead and fixed it for you! xoxo

  10. Great prompt and the usual inspiring art. I'll catch up with reading and comments soon.

  11. This is an intriguing prompt. No worries, Karin, I think we are all rather gobsmacked these days by the political and planetary peril. I will try to write to this prompt, though my Muse is taking an extended summer vacation. Smiles.

  12. Hey Sherry--I look forward to reading your poem if you get time and inspiration! k.

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