the option to linger

I value poems with a story and a general narrative flow from A to Z. As a writer, I tend toward creative non-fiction, and thereby adopt many of it’s inherent principles even while writing other genres. When I write poems, many of my lines are vehicles used to get to the next line, the next great revelation of plot or another link in a sequence of narratives. I establish setting, mood, conflict in the beginning and work it out throughout the piece…voila, a creative non-fiction poem has been born!

When I read something like Ríos’ declaration that, “a line is a moment, and moment is intrinsically non-narrative. That is, a moment does not move forward, not readily, not right away. A moment stops, and stopping is the friendly nemesis of narrative. A line is a moment that has value right then, and which deserves some of our time,” (207), I freeze up a little. I’m inclined to move forward and propel the piece towards itself, but there is value in asserting that the line is indeed a moment.

I think of picture frames, the amount of times I’ve spent staring at a photo and dwelling in whatever small moment was captured and caged. If a poem is a collection of moments, then it is like a wall of picture frames, with the reader gently stopping at each successive photograph and reveling in whatever images or truths are present. Only when the reader is done lingering do they stroll over to the next picture; suddenly a gallery of moments has been strung together in some sort of magical oneness, though each moment is distinctive and salient on its own.

I have difficulty crafting potent lines that offer the option to linger. My lines at times aren’t anchored, I’ve broken them in a way that they depend on each other. A goal of mine is to turn each line into a self-sustaining entity that in turn lends itself well to the poem as a whole; hopefully this semester will be for new growth in this area.




2 Replies to “the option to linger”

  1. See, I love the artistic, almost philosophical way of viewing each line as a kind of individual poem, but I think that’s a very basic way to view poetry.

    There were parts of Rios’ essay that I both agreed and disagreed with, but this point you bring up reminds me of a specific line on page 209: “If you have to tell your reader, ‘just keep reading it’ll all get clear in a moment,’ then you are writing prose, which is dependent on progressive clarification – a device called a plot – rather than singular and memorable elucidation.”

    I’m all about getting wrapped up in the moment. A poem with many stand-alone good lines are wonderful, but I feel like Rios is too dismissive of the narrative arc present in many poems. If each line is great, wouldn’t poetry just consist of one-line sentences spewing a type of philosophy that’ll land it on a calendar image of a mountain scene? I think it’s the blend of the dazzling and the functional that gets the reader to really think about what’s happening, not just hot-shot line after hot-shot line.

    It’s an excellent goal to transform your poetry with new skills. But sometimes, as a reader, I like a means to come to an end: let me linger after a build-up. I want to linger. But I want to move through a piece sometimes.

  2. I think that is such an interesting way to think about the line. And in both Grace’s post and Marley’s reply, there are two great ways to look at the line discussed, as a moment in a picture frame or as a part of moving through the poem. I find it especially interesting that in the poems we’ve read so far, at times both of these ideas are used in a single poem. Sometimes a poem will be like a story, each line moving the reader forward, but still certain lines still make you stop and think about them by themselves. I like how a poem can use just one way of looking at the line, or several ideas all working together in the poem.

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