Welcome to ‘It’s an experiment!’ Each month I’ll be introducing you to different forms, styles and methods of playing around with hybrid work. I’ll introduce the concept, give you some insight into its use, show you lots of examples and provide some practical tips and tricks for making it work.
We are going to continue looking at the differences between stories and poetry, and how we can borrow from each of those basic forms to create something new. This month: lyrical flash.
Review: what is the difference between a story and a poem?
Last month I introduced this table showing the very basic differences between poems and stories— let’s revisit it before we get further into our flash experiment:
Imagine a linear continuum with poetry at one end and story writing at the other—I often use the word “story” instead of flash because I want to include CNF (creative nonfiction) under that umbrella as well.
Last month our narrative poems fell closer to the “poetry” end of this continuum. This time we want to be closer to the ‘story’ end.
My technique for this is almost a flip of what we did for narrative poetry; in that case I asked you to write a quick clear short story and we went line by line turning it into a poem. This time let’s start with a poem and turn it into a story. You might be thinking, hang on—what do you mean, “let’s start with a poem”—poetry can take a lot of time and effort to create! We focus on word choice and nuance and syllable strength and and and… So breathe, because we’re not going to get too caught up in all of that. What we really want to end up with after this first exercise is perhaps not really a ‘complete’ poem, but more of a list of lyrical phrases that we can then incorporate into the hybrid piece. What do I mean by ‘lyrical phrases’?
Lyrical and poetic devices
Unless you have taken classes on poetry writing, you might not be aware of the terms in the following table – however it is quite likely that you have used these devices already in your writing without realizing it. There are many more, but this table explains some of the most common:
So, with these devices in mind, we are going to go ahead and bash out a quick poem on one subject. If you want to follow along with me, I’m going to choose a place I know and focus on describing it— you can choose a place very familiar to you and do the same! The place I’m describing is a seaside walk in the UK town of Scarborough where the land is slowly crumbling into the sea. You’ll notice the following ‘poem’ would be in need of serious editing to be called “finished”—just remember this is a step in the process so therefore doesn’t need to be finished. I’m going to add in parenthesis where I’m using different lyrical devices so you can see how they fit in:
Scarborough Sea Walk
the railings are rotten and rusty (alliteration)
salty storms batter and strip them so their orange flames are lit (alliteration, metaphor)
the Roman castle above bears the brunt of the anger of the sea (personification)
the sea has been fighting this battle with wind and salt (personification)
even by throwing the Vikings against the land (hyperbole)
now there are concrete barriers to frustrate the sea (personification)
it rages as it wants to expose the skeletons of soldiers hidden in the cliff (personification, alliteration)
the sea screams at the railings and tries to destroy them (personification, hyperbole)
the smooth metal railings become like corals; pitted and twisted and alive (simile)
So now I have the beginnings of a poem—or at least a lyrical collection of phrases to describe my chosen place. Now I need to reformat this into something that looks more like a story. Let’s go back to our table that compares poetry and stories, and select which of the criteria to use:
You can see from my selection that I’m trying to make this hybrid piece “look like” a piece of flash— actually in this case, a piece of CNF. I also want to bring in both imagery and connotation AND characters and action. This can be accomplished by turning part of my landscape into a character through the use of personification.
Below is a comparison between the lyrical phrases I wrote earlier and what made it into the final piece, ‘The Railings on the Sea Path.’ It was first published in the inaugural issue of MASKS Literary Magazine, and I remember the very kind editors over there asking alongside the acceptance, “Should we publish this under poetry, fiction, or CNF?” My rather garbled answer amounted to, “Yes.”
You can also see that not everything from the lyrical list made it into the final piece – you can keep what works and let the rest go. A good practice to get into is to save those snippets that you don’t use to incorporate into (or to inspire) future work.
If you would like to read the whole piece, please click here to be taken to MASKS Literary Magazine’s first issue to read, “The Railings on the Sea Path.”
Arden Hunter is an ND aroace agender writer, artist, and performer and the EIC of Cutbow Quarterly. They have words, audio and art hosted and with Full House Literary Magazine, Fifth Wheel Press, and Kissing Dynamite among other places, plus published books of experimental hybrid work and poetry. Find them on Twitter @hunterarden, Instagram @thegardenofarden and at ardenhunter.com.
I have never seen the difference between poetry and story broken down like this before. And I love seeing your writing process. Thank you! I forwarded to friends.