The Hell of Form

I wrote a poem last night. An honest-to-gawd poem. It hasn’t been happening often lately, partly because I’ve been so busy, partly because I’ve been more interested in going on dates with short fiction, and partly because I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself.

The title of this post comes from a Beckian Fritz Goldberg poem that you should read in a book you should also read (Lie Awake Lake) because it would be good for you.

I’m teaching a workshop at The Writer’s Center right now called “The F Word: Poetic Forms,” exploring primarily non-traditional forms (although to do so hefty discussion of traditional forms is obviously involved). Last week, my students took a traditional form and altered it to suit their purposes, which I think helped them see the possibility of “play” in their poems.

Not that their pieces were “light”; in fact, it was quite the opposite. But several of them sought out restriction that helped them.

When I was writing last night, I let a form establish itself in my first stanza–a loose form, mostly involving number of words, a first-line simile that dictated the next lines’ content, and a shift out of the stanza into the next prompted by a who or the word “where.” I also gave myself the loose premise that the poem would be about the idea of flickering, which ultimately kept it close to the idea of light and vision.

I’m not unhappy with it, although it feels like an evolution.

The last poem I wrote was a sonnet about the movie The House on Sorority Row (1983), which uses only sight rhyme and no sound rhyme on its otherwise traditional rhyme scheme (the last couplet, for example, uses “laughter” and “slaughter”).

But I miss the feeling of being swept up by the hand of a sequence of pieces. This piecemeal work is less fun for me.

I’m trying to bring my obsession with form into my prose, but it’s more difficult for me there. In my last story, I tried working with the idea of “negative space storytelling,” where the backdrop of the narrator’s story is sort of the “true narrative,” but it is lensed through the narrator’s more immediate experiences and concerns during that time, and the events are shuffled out of order, since the narrator is too young to understand the causality of one event leading to the next.

Writing is fun. I should do it more often.

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