One of the things I am learning about my personal approach to poetry is that I am inclined to switch up styles and formats after a certain amount of time. Anyone that has read A Mouth for Picket Fences knows that it is a fairly dark collection and, for the most part, is narrative in the sense that it tells a story. This approach is echoed in The Only Moth Among the Dark, the e-chapbook I released rather quietly last month.
With those dark musings exorcised, I knew right away that all poems written from that point on (that is, after I finished writing …Moth) would stray away from the dark and horrific. I spent a few months playing around with poems, trying to get the right sort of mood I was looking for and trying to meet a sort of rhythm that sounded good in my own head. The bulk of these poems ended up coming out as dreamlike and abstract. After a year or so, I had seventy or so poems collected and I narrowed them down to a more sensible number. These were then put together in my second collection, titled Sleepmaps, which is currently making the rounds in submission land.
Once Sleepmaps was wrapped up, I started wondering what sort of poems I would try to write next. At the time, I was reading a collection by Major Jackson titled Holding Company. This is a collection wherein each poem is only 10 lines long but manages to pack brutal punches that are both beautiful and tragic. Inspired by this, I started trying to writer much shorter poems. While I have still not gotten to the point where I am comfortable in writing extremely short poems, they are a tremendous amount of fun.
Here’s a recent example. Something about it doesn’t seem complete to me, but I can’t quite find the one thing that needs to be altered. This was written three weeks ago and I think is going to be titled “The House Where You Grew Up”.
When we passed the house where you grew up,
the car forgot its wheels
and you ran your fingers through your hair
like sifting through sand.
The back roads unwound like a spool of dark thread,
knitting up that one mistake
and when the crows set their sails from the trees
I pretended not to see you cry.
Similar to flash fiction, there is the sense that a brief story has been told, but there is an obvious ending (or a beginning) that could be further developed. Still, I like it as a slice of something bigger…a peek into someone else’s life without any real ideas of how they got there or where they are going. I feel that this theme might be the building blocks to a possible third collection (although I have nowhere near enough poems written to even consider a third collection as of yet).
How about you, audience? Do you like your poems short and to the point, with much left up to the reader or do you prefer longer ones that spell everything out to you and leave little room to interpretation?