When a Poet Commits Intentional Fiction

To begin with a personal anecdote: when I first started writing, I wanted to write fiction as well as poetry; in fact, I only stopped trying to write fiction when I came to feel I just wasn’t very good at it. Poetry seemed to be more up my street. However….every once in awhile over the years I’ve taken a stab at something intentionally fictive, only to watch it die in the crib. Oh, well. Some efforts don’t deserve to live; that’s all there is to it.

Recently I tried again, and this time I’m—well, not unhappy with it so far. It seems to at least have two arms, two legs, and all that. It lacks a title, which usually (for me, anyway) comes early on in the process, but right now that isn’t a big concern. I’ve been taking a couple of days away from it before thinking about revising.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about a book somewhere on our shelves here at home. It’s called The Poet’s Story, an anthology of stories written by poets.  It isn’t easy to find anymore because it’s decades old now, but it’s one example of what I mean by this type of cross-training. Of course, we have numerous examples of fiction writers turning to poetry, but I think that in the main the poetry-to-fiction crossover seems less common. I’m not really certain.

What I do know, though, is that the experience shook up my writing life in ways I think might be fruitful over time. We’ll have to see. In the same way, it’s a profitable exercise for anyone who writes: Don’t get caught up too much in the trap of specialization. Remember, you didn’t take an oath or anything. You aren’t cheating on your genre, OK? No one’s going to think less of you. And what you’re likely to learn in the process should likewise shake up your writing life, in ways you might be able to use in your primary genre of effort.

So is this new story any good? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. It’s still too new. More as it develops.

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About johnwylam1957

I'm a poet and teacher now living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
This entry was posted in Poetry/Fiction, Writing in General. Bookmark the permalink.

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