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2004-09-29 - 3:51 p.m.

They made us write poetry.


I’m not against the form. In fact, those that can master that particular mold are held highest in my esteem. Novelists have hundreds of pages to get an idea across, and infinite paths to parlay it. Playwrights have two hours, and a collabrative team to bring the message to light. A poet has, in general, a single page. It always seemed to me like trying to write up a definition for string theory with only the letters provided on one rack of scrabble pieces.

Each word has to be chosen with the utmost care and the most diserning eye. Every nuance of every syllable has to be dissected to find the most powerful combination. Sitting in on my one and only poetry workshop, I was bombarded by a discussion which began with semantics and word origin, and eventually wound its way to metaphysics, closing with the definition of object being negligible as everything has no clear dilliniation from its surroundings at the narrowest of molecular levels, or something like that. I was doodling a superhero with an extremely large nose battling it out with a violent pussywillow. (I don’t know that many flowers.)

Being a pretty big fan of narrative, the powerfully emotive poetics seemed strange to me. While they poured buckets of meaning into a few tight stanzas, I was content to figure out what one of my characters received for Christmas on her eigth birthday, after all, getting a toy train with pink racing stripes can have a powerful effect on a young woman’s psyche.

Having ducked and dodged iambic pentameter for so long, I couldn’t have expected the new workshop instructor to pin us into the corner, with demands to get down with the lyric. Five poems in a week. I was tempted to write five one word poems.


The missing ‘me’ at the end could be considered a cliff hanger, or a deliberate attempt to manipulate the audiences expectations based on genre. Or something.

Instead, I tried. I wrote up a few poems about whatever over dramatic relationshippy emotional clap trap happened to be wandering through the transim of my mind. I tried to pick it apart and put out all the feeling in a few pithy phrases.

Short story, shorter: It blew.

The only one of the five that was well received was a scribbling I’d mangled into my notebook while walking the streets of Dublin. Five different languages wandering from five different drunks, a few locals chanting “Yanks Go Home!,” and a few other choice tid-bits.

I couldn’t seem to write what I felt, so I wrote what I saw.

My feelings could be shoved in the more protective wrappings of fiction.

For non-fiction, maybe it’s better I don’t feel anything.

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