Saturday, September 17, 2016

Following a Thread - Weekend MIni Challenge

Hey Toads!  Manicddaily here to admit that I have never really thought of myself as a poet.  I don’t say this out of modesty; it's just that I tend to think always, in writing, about story. I am simply captivated by narrative, so that when I sit down to write, I often find myself looking for a thread to follow, something that stitches me to the fabric of the piece, something I can unwind (even if just in my brain or just an instant.) 

Of course, many think poetry developed as a means of remembering story, as in Homer's great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, tropes and rhymes serving as mnemonics. 

Then came a whole tradition of ballads--musical poetry that gallops a tale along--and also specific poem stories like Richard Cory by Edward Arlington Robinson, or even “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” by Emily Dickinson. 

Modern poetry sometimes tells stories rather indirectly--something like a journey or an exploratory excavation might take place in the walk-through of a house (where nothing seems to happen in the immediate poem, but whole lifetimes are told.)  Here are two examples : "A Story" by Philip Levine, and  "Abandoned Farmhouse "by Ted Kooser. 

The prompt today is to think of some narrative when writing your poem. Your poem does not need to directly tell a story--though it can--but whatever you write about, try to follow through on its thread; even let that thread lead you, though it may not have a clear sense of where it is going!  

Your starting off point may be something quite surreal.  (Actually, I encourage this.)  I’ve always loved this short poem by Russell Edson, Our Sincerest Regrets, about a toilet sliding into the living room. Part of the reason I like the poem so much is that Edson follows through on the specifics of his initial premise--what would a toilet sliding into the living room be like? What kind of trail might it leave?  Why would it do it?   

Your narrative poem need not be long.  One of the most powerful stories in the world is the six word story by Ernest Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."  

While I won’t ask for a word or line limitation on your poem, I would urge you to think simply and economically.  When a story goes on too long, it gets to be like a car trip in which the reader is always asking “are we there yet?”  (I know I am terrible at this part.)

This prompt is meant to be extremely broad.  If you are having a hard time coming up with something, you may just try shutting your eyes a few minutes and writing the story of "now", this instant. However, remember the story in your poem does not have to be about you, and it does not have to be true. (In fact, I think the most  fun may arise if you can let yourself leap from a slightly surreal jumping off point, using your thread to tether you to the page!) 

Because they are a dog and elephant, they prefer to be tethered to the page by pens rather than threads.
I look forward to reading your poems. I am sorry to have been so absent, not a great time for me.  I urge you to visit your fellow poets.



Kerry O'Connor said...

Thanks, karin. I consider you to be a poet and story-teller of great ability, while I fear my narrative skills have never been a strong point of my poetry, but it is good to set one's mind to tasks outside the comfort zone.

Outlawyer said...

Thanks, Kerry. I wanted to say that people should feel free to use a prose poem format as that sometimes works better if the poem length is longer. Thanks for all your support. k.

Outlawyer said...

Just another note--I talk of being succinct (ha!) but mine might be fairly long--sometimes a story takes a little time to find itself - great to be short but not always possible - no worries! k.

brudberg said...

I missed Susie's prompt but I found a story by combining the prompts... great starting point actually...

Outlawyer said...

Yes, I actually did one for both prompts too but haven't been able to type up the one for Susie's. Thanks, Bjorn. k.

Stacie Eirich said...

Hi Toads! I've had a week full of work for my "other" jobs, which has left little to no time for writing. I'm going to try to incorporate Lady Death into a narrative....hope to post by tomorrow. Look forward to reading too! Hope everyone has had a lovely weekend.

Jim said...

This is a nice prompt, I didn't do it exactly right but was fairly consistent. For sure though, I was not brief.
Like Stacie, I also wrote another Death, fairly brief. I may use it for Tuesday Platform, I don't think it reached any readers as it was very late.

Stacie Eirich said...

Ok! Got it posted! But wanted to let you all know that (as I also discuss at end of my post) I'm going to be blogging a bit less through the fall season. Once a week is my goal, likely always a poem or short prose share. This is self-imposed as I have work at other jobs, a busier fall schedule for my kids, and a novel to complete! :-) Happy to read & comment, though, as always. Have a great week Toads!