Christopher 08/10/14

So aside from editing Bunbury Magazine and all the larks that go along with it, I write poetry and fiction in my own right. A couple of years ago, I put together a collection of flash fiction called Lightspeed. I go back to it every now and again and try to re-work it into something better – maybe word choices that could be improved, themes that could come through stronger. I concentrated on flash fiction as it seemed to suit the pace my writing allowed at the time. (I have been attempting a novel for the past year though maybe my writing needs to mature a little first.)

Something that also eluded me for a while was poetry itself. Which is why I write it more often now. I figure if I am writing it more I may eventually get the hang of it. This is not (entirely) pointless waffle – I am currently trying to rework Lightspeed into poetry. I started from the beginning yesterday (well, one of the beginnings. More on that at a future date) with a story called ‘Wisteria.’ Here is the original:

Never had so much promise been held in the weather-worn tread of a shoe. As she and he arrived home from a mid-afternoon jaunt to the local public house, the stars had winked at them knowingly. Should the small nugget of white gold they now had in their possession deliver all they hoped, later the stars will be giving them the full Fonzie treatment.

            Usually the rule would be never put anything in your mouth that you’ve had to dig out of your shoe with a pen-knife but drunken hubris and a taste for the wicked had spurred them on.

            She bit the pill in half and swallowed as he looked on in anticipation. Soon the excitement turned to bitter-fresh disappointment.

            ‘Dude. It’s a damn smint!’

Now, when I wrote this, lovingly ripped-off from a real-life event, I wanted to create a nice, light, funny story, despite its slightly taboo subject, or implied subject at any rate. For the poetic version, I wanted to create the rhythm of the music that one would usually listen to whilst under the infl…anyway. The first part I came up with was:

We drink and drink

and drink and drink

from pub to pub

        pub to pub

from pub to pub

        pub to pub

We trawl the bars

and drown in stout

find the door and stagger out

from pub to pub

        pub to pub

The repetition and brevity of words is supposed to reflect the loop nature and hard beats of dance/rave music. I found the opening easy to transpose into this format. It lends itself nicely to the rhythm I am trying to create. However, I was acutely aware of the narrative the story weaves. I found when I tried to bring the narrative over to the poem, the beat broke down:

We stumble and stagger and stutter along,

then I trip over a kerb.

There’s something in the tread of my shoe.

I pull it out and with a thrill

announce that I have found a pill.

Is it ever wise

to eat something you find

in the tread of your shoe?

This part of the story is the story itself. I know it needs to be in the poem to have a poem. After I wrote it, I did what pretentious writers do and automatically tried to justify why a crap part of the poem could work. For this section, I could say that the rhythm breaks down as the 1. the narrator ‘trips over the kerb’ and 2. the narrator wrangles with a whether or not to eat the pill. There is an uncertainty which is reflected by the break in the pattern. That would be fairly lazy justification though, just to avoid rewrites.

Which is what good poetry is all about. Having a simple idea, getting it down on paper and then using many, many more sheets of paper trying to perfect it.

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