For some time now, I’ve been mulling over genre. Perhaps it’s a result of the classes I’ve taken in college or the people I spend time with, but I’m starting to think the boundaries of genre are as real as the monster I thought lived in my mother’s closet until I was ten. Not that it’s a bad thing; maybe, though, the lines don’t always have to be so clear.
Despite reassurance that I don’t need to limit myself to one genre, I grow increasingly anxious as fellow writers call themselves “poets” or “fiction-writers.” I am drawn to each genre for its specific strengths, and what my writing needs in an isolated moment. So when people ask what do you write? the answer is poetry-nonfiction-hybrid. Always accompanied by a question mark. A better answer would simply be: I write.
Poetry was my first college workshop and, after considering myself a fiction-writer until that point, it was a shift. I became enamored. Poetry provided me with the space I needed to breathe, to let the reader engage. I was propelled by an uncontrollable compulsion to write. It forced its way in with shooting stars and white wave crests. In the curve of a dancer’s body. Bright graffiti on a brick wall. In apocalyptic snowstorm, power-outage, and hearth-light.
Does this make me a poet, though? I don’t know.
Recently, I experimented with creative non-fiction. I’d never, consciously, written in the genre, but I figured it would be best to try it out. Just to be sure. Turns out, it was just the genre I needed to be writing in. The result was a, quite lengthy, lyric essay. Fragmented, lines sloping across the page, the denser prose broken up with short poems. This was exactly what I had been looking for.
So maybe I’m biased. But I don’t think we require such clear and defined boundaries. I like finding poetry in fiction, in nonfiction, in dance, on the grass, in dew on the grass. It might still be challenging to answer the what do you write? question in a thirty-second elevator pitch, but I’ll figure it out eventually.
My moment of validation came on a spring afternoon, after reading T Fleischmann’s book Syzygy, Beauty and hearing them speak on toeing the line between genres. I’m curious if you have found a book formative for you in your writing? If you’ve read any hybrid works, do you have any reading recommendations?