Fiction vs. Poetry

So my first workshop in Geneseo was Fiction with Gentry in the spring semester of last year. This only being my second workshop and a diversion from the structure and content of my first one, I can’t help but feel like a fish out of water, especially when I see the poetry coming out of more experienced poets in the class.

But I can’t help but notice that fiction is trailing into every piece of poetry I write. I recognize that poetry is more of a fluid subject between fiction and cnf, kind of a meeting point between the two and I appreciate that. But the fiction characters I write, especially in my last semester, have been worming their way into my poems lately. I guess this can be seen as a natural thing, but I feel like I may be stuck in the fiction mind-set versus the poetry one.

I guess my question is this: How do you create characters in your poem when you’re writing about experiences that haven’t happened to you? Do you focus more on content and shape your speakers around that, or do you have a set character in mind? One with experiences you’ve invented and can build off of? Or is it okay to simply say, hey you can do both?

One Reply to “Fiction vs. Poetry”

  1. Hi Marley,

    This is a fascinating question for me – and (before you get excited!) not one I can answer. Because, as I’ve noticed, I’ve actually never written a poem that wasn’t… autobiographical. I must have some fear of fiction, because I’ve never written a fiction story either, even though I’m in CNF workshop for the third time this semester. Awkward.

    It does interest me also because the only poems I would say weren’t about me are about science, and thus the ‘I’ is almost like the ‘we’ in a scientific paper; it’s an all-encompassing storyteller, not a specific character/person. Like in my Acerum on Fomalhaut b – there IS an I, but it isn’t a character really. CRAZY.

    Anyway, nice reminder that there are so many areas of writing I still haven’t immersed myself in and so many styles/content types that I haven’t even considered working in yet. I feel this way about dialogue in CNF (I hate dialogue…). Maybe it’s time to branch out and see if creating a character gets me someplace new in a poem?

    That being said – I think I’ll try to start small, with a character or a narrative pretty similar to one of my own and move broaden my perspective from there. I was thinking about attempting to write a poem about being adopted earlier this semester (utilizing my boyfriend’s perspective) but I shied away from it because I didn’t want to portray him incorrectly. or in a way that he didn’t appreciate. I think that’s always my fear with fiction – misrepresenting someone else’s story.

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