a poem is not a story…

25 January, 2010

… and it’s not an atmosphere.

So said our tutor in last week’s workshop, and I’ve been mulling it over since then. It’s not enough just to recount an anecdote. And it’s not enough just to evoke a certain feeling.

All of which leaves me a bit stuck for the piece of writing I’m now working on: a sestina, which is a really demanding form, and one I haven’t written before. I can’t work out if the fact that my endwords have already been chosen for me* makes it harder or easier. Both, probably. Easier because I don’t have to worry about choosing words that I’ll be able to repeat six times. Harder because, well, I have to hang a poem on those six words and I have no other cue no feeling for what I want the poem to do, other than work.

I’ve written a first stanza, just to force myself to start playing with the words, but it hasn’t really led me anywhere. Hopefully reading some exemplary sestinas will nudge me along; otherwise, I’ll just have to hope that, with time, some ideas will start to percolate… Wish me luck.

*It was one of those late-night, rather tipsy conversations, and Paul decided that I should write a sestina, and picked my six endwords for me by making me give him random numbers, which then pinpointed specific words in Keats’s collected letters. They are: thread, one, heavenward, have, world, surprised. Very Keatsian, I’m sure you’ll agree.

3 Responses to “a poem is not a story…”

  1. […] the meantime I’m sketching out roughs of new poems: the sestina, and a poem about running and writing (boring, yes, I know). And I’m digging my inspiration […]

  2. […] – and things seem both a little less fraught and a lot more alive. I’ve given up on the sestina for now; I did find something I wanted to hang on it but I just don’t think I’m up to […]

  3. […] not just a description of how I was feeling in the run-up to September (after all, a poem is not a story…) […]

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