Discovering Poetry

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”
Robert Frost


I loved the poem that The Writer’s Almanac presented today because it says a lot about voice. One Night by Jeremy Voight. If you’re not reading this on January 8th, you can do a search on the site for the poem.
The language was both unexpected and clever. I’ve never thought to write a poem about being killed and what that would look like. But that’s exactly what Jeremy Voight did and he did it by blending both tragedy and elements of humor. The speaker in the poem calls his friends to tell them that the whole family has been killed and he writes, “We are all dead,” I said into the phone./I let them cry or exalt in turn, taking/note.” Using a character that has died as the speaker in the novel is also what author, Alice Sebold did in The Lovely Bones which has now been made into a film. Read this interview with Sebold for more insight into her novel.

Maybe Voight read an article in the paper about this tragic accident or had a personal experience with this kind of tragedy. Either way it is a memorable poem.

Today, as a writing exercise look to the newspaper. Find a story that you think has been overlooked and write a poem or short story where you are the main character in the piece. What observations and details could you imagine happened to the characters in the story? Could you weave in both tragedy and humor as Voight effectively does?  Now get back to work!

The Writing Nag

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2 Replies to “Discovering Poetry”

  1. This is a great exercise! I had to write my obituary for a college news-writing classes and it was very instructive (echoes of the funeral scene in "Tom Sawyer"). As I recall, I choked to death on a hairball.

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