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Today I thought we should explore the world of narrative poetry. As some of you who follows I also write flash fiction and today I want you tell me a story and use the tools for a storytelling and fit into a poem.

The world is filled with stories… they might be fiction or they might not. Sometimes they are genre stories such as crime or science fiction, but often I find that my favorite stories work from a genre and give me something else.

I find it interesting that the oldest saved poems are actually stories, which makes total sense to me as poetry with it’s rhythm and rhymes makes it easier to be read from memory. The division between storytelling and poetry came with the creation of novels (they knew it was something new when naming it novels).

The oldest saved piece of poetry is the epic of Gilgamesh which is also the oldest literature that still exists. It tells the story of the king of Ur and dating back to 2200 BC. Isn’t that fascinating?

The epic of Gilgamesh

Today I want you to tell me a story (fiction or nonfiction), new or ancient.

Use the following literary devices.

  • Select if the author will be a participator (first person), or an observer (third person) or an omnipotent being that can see all the perspectives.
  • Select the tense it will be written in, usually past or present, but future can be quite interesting.
  • Have a clear beginning putting us at a specific place and a time. Introduce the place using senses and imagery, a great way to use your poetic skills.
  • Introduce us to the main character(s). Make me see and understand the person(s), try to describe the person by showing their actions rather than just describing them. If you describe them try to convey them in that distinguishing feature that makes me feel them.
  • If you want to include some dialogue I think it will make the story more real.
  • Let it have s clear end with or without a twist (change of perspective). Remember that even open ends is ending. Remember that the pace of story telling is just as important as poetic pace and rhythm, most good stories follow a narrative arc.
  • Stories or poetry that convey a clear moral are often the strongest
  • Think about a genre for your poem/story, it can fiction or for real.

You can use any form you want, and use all poetic devices, meter, rhymes and assonance. You can use prose poetry, I have found that using poetic devices make it easier to shorten the texts many times, emotions conveyed by imagery describe emotions also in stories. I have no set limitation on length, but I would like you to use means to cut it down to the bare minimum the story requires. So if your story extends over several hundreds of words please consider ways to cut it down. I find that a story can be quite complete in 100 words, but for sure if you want to write a modern version of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner go ahead:

Just to show an example from my own writing, here is a sonnet I recently wrote:

Black and blacker

When darkness tiptoed through our streets, we shut
the windows, blocked the doors before they knocked.
“This night is death”, you cried, “it stabs my gut”.
We listened to the tick-tock of the clocks,
and watched the gargoyles tingling into black,
your face, a pale reflection washed in ink.
I poured myself a scotch when on my back,
I felt its ice cold touch, a serpent slinked
foretelling that the visitors had come,
a raven wind and from the basement sighs,
and there was music, woodwind, strings and drums,
and rattling bones, retracted claws — You cried:
“I cannot sleep, the way you toss and turn”,
and there was light, my nightmares had adjourned.

To me it shows that you can tell a story also in the most traditional form, and here I let the twist at the end make the poem into a conceit. I got the feedback that it was a bit disappointing that it just was a dream, and I think that by just changing the Volta (the final couplet) I can make it into an altogether different story.

If anyone have any tips on narrative poetry leave it in the comment below.

When you have written your poem on your blog, just link it up in Mr Linky below. Go around and visit other poems… Tonight and the next two day let us listen to stories.