Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daisy Fried on How a Poem Happens: Interesting Uncertainty

I have not found better words than hers to explain how I go about writing a poem. This Q/A is from Brian Brodeur's wonderful blog, How a Poem Happens.

Could you talk about fact and fiction and how this poem negotiates the two?
All of my poems are fiction, regardless of whether what “I” says happened really happened. Ron Silliman wrote at his blog something like that my poems are in the persona of myself. Which seems right, though I had never thought of it that way explicitly before. I am aware that the appearance of autobiography makes people want to know if it’s true. Obviously I’m willing to exploit that desire in my poems. I think I may be more involved than many poets in using fictional techniques—the kinds of things that novel and short-story writers think about. But fact or fiction, telling what happened is not the point of my poems. I use story, and the word “I,” as strategies toward getting the poems to a place of what I hope is interesting uncertainty.

I write poems and stories with the same impulse, I think, except with poetry I feel a duty to use better language (at least part of the point with poetry) and to get in and out within a short period of time, whereas in fiction the story I'm trying to tell is most important, so I think less about language and more about how the story works on the reader, or doesn't work well enough, as the case may be. I don't feel as if I'm pointed toward 'interesting uncertainty,' though. I'm not entirely sure what that means. I think it's near-impossible, in a poem of specific details, the kind I like, to end up with a feeling of 'interesting uncertainty.' But I need to think about it more.

And as it is the first day of NaPoWriMo, I present here Daisy Fried's Exercises, via Amy King.
1. Write a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie.
2. Write a poem that tells a story in 18 lines or less, and includes at least four proper nouns.
3. Write a poem that uses any of the senses EXCEPT SIGHT as its predominant imagery.
4. Write a poem inspired by a newspaper article you read this week.
5. Write a poem without adjectives.
6. Ask your roommate/neighbor/lover/friend/mother/anyone for a subject (as wild as they want to make it) for a ten-minute poem. Now write a poem about that subject in ten minutes; make it have a beginning, a middle and an end.
7. Write the worst poem you possibly can. Now edit it and make it even worse.
8. Poem subject: A wind blows something down. Or else it doesn’t. Write it in ten minutes.
9. Write a poem with each line, or at least many of the lines, filling in the blanks of “I used to________, but now I_________.”
11. Write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best
friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.
12. Write a poem that uses as a starting point a conversation you overheard.
13. First line of today’s poem: “This is not a poem, but…”
14. Write a poem in the form of either a letter or a speech which uses at least six of the following words: horses, “no, duh,” adolescent, autumn
leaves, necklace, lamb chop, Tikrit, country rock, mother, scamper, zap, bankrupt. Take no more than 13 minutes to write it.
15. Write a poem which includes a list or lists-shopping list, things to do, lists of flowers or rocks, lists of colors, inventory lists,
lists of events, lists of names…
16. Poem subject: A person runs where no running is allowed. Write it in ten minutes.
17. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.
18. Write a poem made up entirely of questions. Or write a poem made up entirely of directions.
19. Write a poem about the first time you did something.
20. Write a poem about falling out of love.
21. Make up a secret. Then write a poem about it. Or ask someone to give you a made-up or real secret, and write a poem about it.
22. Write a poem about a bird you don’t know the name of.
23. Write a hate poem.
24. Free-write for, say, 15 minutes, but start with the phrase “In the kitchen” and every time you get stuck, repeat the phrase “In the
kitchen.” Alternatively, use any part of a house you have lots of associations with-”In the garage,” “In the basement,” “In the bathroom,” “In the yard.”
25. Write down 5-10 words that sound ugly to you. Use them in a poem.
26. Write a poem in which a motorcycle and a ballerina appear.
27. Write a poem out of the worst part of your character.
28. Write a poem that involves modern technology-voice mail, or instant messaging, or video games, or… 29. Write a seduction poem in which somebody seduces you.
30. Radically revise a poem you wrote earlier this month.

1 comment:

  1. My poems die
    on your footsteps
    as you leave
    and are
    not with me.
    Shivering in
    the los of your
    golden skinn
    your hair
    like a golden storm
    on the pillow
    your smile
    tears me
    in tears
    my poems
    fall dead
    at your fotsteps.