Friday, October 14, 2022

poem as phantom ship


Earlier this year, I wrote some fiction. I haven't returned to it full-heartedly since, being more focused on preparations for the new book and new poem projects and just general writing and editing work, but I am never completely happy with my short stories--mostly horror and erotica genre pieces. I feel like stories require certain things of me--logic, timeline, acceleration, denouement. Poems are like this moment, frozen,  which contain the entirety of a story or narrative in a limited amount of space. 

While a story goes somewhere, has a destination, no matter how long or convoluted, the poem is just its own world, even when placed alongside other poems to create a larger world.  I struggle sometimes when talking about projects or submitting work, which always feels like plucking a few strands out of a rug and offering them with little context. 

Or maybe the better analogy is that fiction is more like a river or stream that wanders but does intend on getting to an endpoint, or even having a beginning at all, whereas poetry is a like a lake or small pond or maybe even just a puddle that reflects the sky. 

When I was a kid, I wanted to write sprawling horror novels like the ones I hoarded--the Stephen King, John Saul, VC Andrews. I tried, but never got very far (well for one thing I was writing them longhand in a looseleaf binder.) Poetry, when it came to me, was a new mystery, in which things could be done in a smaller space, a smaller scale.  Instead of building the seascape out of sand and rock and boats, I could encompass everything in a single drop of water. 

And what are ghosts but moments, hauntings, memories the stories we tell about ourselves and others after they are gone. The ghost ship is just a ship alone on the ocean. It doesn't have a destination, or if it did, it has long since forgotten it. It just is.

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