National Poetry Month: Day 17

New Savagery

Our first foolishness was to adopt
the god of a desert tribe
to rule a land of green forest,
wind-raked moor, and
infinite coastline;
we should have worshipped a fish
hurtling upstream
for eternities,
not listened to an old man
whose dissipated sons
can only bicker and divide;
we should have made sacred
the colours of our mud:
black loam, grey chalk downs,
red sandstone, and the moorland’s
thin brown.
We ought have touched only
our skies full of clouds
and knelt only to sow, and to raise up
our fallen children.
Now we sow blood for the world
and make sacred
the hue of wars
in deserts.

— Delilah Des Anges

One of the great challenges of writing both prose and poetry can occasionally be the task of keeping them out of each other. When you are in the habit of writing rhythmically for poetry, it can quite easily seep into your prose as a matter of habit; thinking in beats is a hard habit to shake, as are bursts of alliteration or internal rhyme. However, these tics in prose can be surprisingly useful if you are writing a specific genre: fairytales. Far from being distractions or sounding unnatural, the sing-song intonation that accompanies poetry (often iambic pentameter works best for this) carries over to fairytales in a very organic fashion and makes the story pleasing to repeat; a great feature retained from the fairytale’s origin as an oral story.

There may be occasions when writing a story when it becomes apparent that what is actually necessary is to turn it into a poem because the cadences and rhythms are too poetic for the subject matter in prose; this occurred with Shots in the Dark. Originally a short story, it was reborn as a narrative poem after a friend read it over and said she could “see the poem lurking in the prose”.

Conversely, there are times when what is intended as a poem takes on a life of its own and characters, bursts the boundaries of poetic tropes and forms and demands to be written as a story. The important thing is listening to what form a piece of narrative wishes to be presented in, because if you force it, the end result will not be as good.

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF


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