The challenge this time around was to write a poem based upon another author’s fiction. This theme happens to coincide with the AJIL’s current theme (although I now have pretty much all the material needed) which is Life of Books.
I had difficulty in settling on a book. However, the idea for the poem eventually occurred to me – some chance phrase in conversation – and I searched for a book and character to fit the idea. Once chosen, the book and character modified the idea. I find that in a poem, this back and forth, this interplay of elements that continually modify one another as they are added in, is the necessary flexibility that allows a poet to work in form. It’s impossible, really, to write formal (or musical) poetry rigidly or at all passively.
However, the way this poem came into being is not entirely satisfactory to me. One of the primary reasons I began these challenges is to experiment in the experience of inspiration. Presumably the other author has had inspiration in writing the initial work. Can we somehow “borrow” that inspiration by starting with a line or other element of theirs? Our first line challenges have especially seemed to answer yes to that question. However as you can see, I didn’t get the full experience this time around since I failed to generate a poem from the germ of the book I chose.
And so, because these challenges remain open forever, I do hope to return to this challenge and try again.
Do post your own poems as you are able and be prepared for robust (but hopefully compassionate) conversation regarding the work and, no less, the writerly condition. These poems may appear, with your subsequent permission and opportunity to edit, of course, in a book or literary journal.
One last note: I do think that this is an excellent opportunity to write less formal poems since the narrative poem is essentially a hybrid. (Or rather, the original from which lyric poetry and fiction once descended.)