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Hi, today I thought we would take a closer look at flashbacks and tense. I do not know if you have thought about time in your poetry, but often we when want to build a narrative we have to include the past, the present and the future.. We can choose to tell about these using tenses, the past is imperfect (or other past tense forms), the present is presence and the future in future tenses. Often in a story we need to consider all the tenses at the same time. Just as our mind is working all the time.


However to paint the past even more vivid we could do it using flashbacks. Just like a metaphor is stronger than a simile it paints reality in much more contrasts. In a flashback we tell something from the past in present tense and interrupt our story by moving us almost like we had a access to time-machine. The time machine can be something that we experience with our senses that move us back to the past, the smell of a certain perfume, a song on the radio, or walking down the street at a certain time of the day. It can also be what happens to us every night when we dream. This is not like a memory but much more vivid and strong. We actually relive the past..

In “Birches” Robert frost write

“So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.”

In the poem he is transported back to being the boy swinging in the birches, and then is moved back in time to the present state, probably have gained some insight in the process.Note how he transitions to being in the past by imagining a dream. You should pay close attention to how the tense changes abruptly from present to past to present when you are inside the flashback. And sometimes instantly from present to present.

Another example I have written myself a while ago:

Shadows from too far too long ago

When gradually I blend
with dancers of the shadowplay
with canopies aghast
with beasts and birds
seeking shelter
just like me, a memory.

I walk to find a path
among the clouds you left,
‘Can we be friends?’ you said
with faint perfumes of him
sickle-trickling from your lips,
your tongue a rosebud
wilted, left between your teeth.
far too long….. ago.

I’m dubbed disease
and keep my words inhaled
mumbled, hidden
in smothered sips of pebbles
smooth and hard, not forgotten
far too long….. ago.

Reality is relative — a shadow
just like Plato said:
what we see and what has passed
within our dreams
are copycats and suicides,
projections of what we really wished

The two middle stanzas are memories so vivid so I have written then in present tense, and they are triggered by what I see among the shadows.

There are also numerous examples in fiction where flashback used.

So today I want you to use a flashback in your poem. Try imagining a time-device that transports back. Put careful attention of using the present tense after your time travel

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