Narratives and Shifting Gears

The structure which spoke to me most this semester was the Mid-Course Turn, particularly in the exercise where we brought in a “starter” poem and chose a place to open it up. In my case, I brought in the exercise where we wrote about waking up in a different body, and my choice of difference was to make the body female instead of male. In the original exercise, I found my exploration of this to be very mundane and blandly limited to physical description. Bringing in the idea of the Mid-Course Turn, along with its accompanying shift in genre or something equally drastic, I was able to use the turn as a way to access the material I really wanted to get at, which was the broader implications, socially and emotionally, of having a female body. Having done that, I feel as though the Mid-Course Turn could be a very useful tool for digging deeper into those pieces of writing which I feel are simply not getting at the most meangingful aspect of the territory, and so I may try it in the future whenever I find my writings to be stagnant or not going anywhere.

The books which have spoken to me the most this semester are Famous Last Words and Quarantine. The first because of its accessibility and the second because of its depth of character and narrative. Similarly, I find the accessibility of the first to be related to its more narrative or less disjointed content. I suspect my roots as a fiction writer are playing the biggest role here, which comes as no surprise since I’ve been feeling almost burdened by them all semester. But at this point, having gotten a much better feel for poetry itself and its languages and structures and modes, I think I’m probably better able to blend my love of narrative with the freedom of the poetic genre.

I credit this, at least in part, to the two books which I mentioned above, both of which bring a certain level of narrative which I couldn’t find in, say, Revolver or Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music. But what those kinds of poems have taught me is that a certain amount of fragmentation is not necessarily bad, and I think the extreme to which, especially, Wasps takes it, allows me to see just a little fragmentation as not necessaruly ruing acessibility. So as a whole I would say I’ve become more aware of what separates a narrative poem from a very short story, and while I can’t quite put what that is into words, I feel as though I might possibily be able to write a poem which would speak that difference for itself. And that was definitely one of the things I wanted to learn from this class.

-James

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