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“Many works of the ancients have become fragments
Many works of the moderns are fragments at birth
~ Friedrich Schlegel

This calendar year is drawing to a close and is perhaps, a little tattered at the edge. Many of us are suffering ennui as a result of Northern darkness, pre-festive fatigue, and the sense that our societies are not holding together well.

And so what more apt poetry term to match the mood than that of the Fragment.

“A part broken off, something cut or detached from the whole, something imperfect. Much of the work of the ancients comes down to us in fragments and tatters, cut pieces.” (A Poet’s Glossary ~ Edward Hirsch)

Indeed, from Sappho we only have fragmented manuscripts, where decay has eaten away words, uncoupled the meanings, as here in  “Fragment 16”:

“…Helen, left her most noble husband
and went sailing off to Troy with no thought at all
for her child or dear parents,
but [love?] led her astray …
lightly …
[and she]
has reminded me
now of Anactoria
who is not here;
I would rather see her
lovely walk and the bright sparkle of her
face than the Lydians’ chariots and armed
infantry …”

And it was to such ruinous classical themes that the early 19th century Romantic poets turned. And from their own context of European social upheavals (the French Revolution) and newer influential philosophies (Schlegel) the Romantic Fragment poetry style was formed. Byron, Shelley, Keats and of course Coleridge, published texts as unfinished forms.  Thus his interrupted opioid dreamscape “Kubla Khan” is subtitled “Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment. There are also nine other published fragments of Coleridge which read like something lifted from a notebook and it may be that the editor rather than the writer wanted them published as here  in “Fragment 3“:

“Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
Flash, like a Love-thought, thro’ me, Death
And take a Life that wearies me.

There have been many poems since, entitled ‘Fragments’ of one sort or another and it begs the question as to what exactly defines this genre or can it even be defined.  Are we to assume ‘the fragment’ is the more that never arose, or the less that is complete in itself, which we, the reader, are at liberty to  infill? Amy Lowell explores this in her “Fragment”

“What is poetry? Is it a mosaic
Of coloured stones which curiously are wrought
Into a pattern? Rather glass that’s taught
By patient labor any hue to take
And glowing with a sumptuous splendor, make
Beauty a thing of awe; where sunbeams caught,
Transmuted fall in sheafs of rainbows fraught
With storied meaning for religion’s sake.”

By the time the modernists were writing, the Fragment poem becomes much more literal in the sense of being disconnected, discontinued pieces fished from a stream of consciousness. The prime example beings Eliot’s six  part The Wasteland (“these fragment I have shored against my ruin”) but also it appears in his prose poem “Hysteria“:

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles…I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end”

Eliot from his post-war, turbulent marriage perspective is expressing the anxiety that the whole keeps coming apart and thus the fragment is often inevitable but not necessarily desirable. Post Modernists dispense with that idea and thus the Fragment Poem becomes emancipatory from context, wholeness, meaning and runs on like the glossary of rivers in Ashberry’s ‘Into the Dusk-Charged Air

So for this prompt we are to write a Modernist/Post-Modernist Fragment poem ~by that I mean

a  poem of several  numbered stanzas. Each being complete in itself and having only a passing relationship to each other, if at all
a poem of disjointed images (like listening to conversation in passing, repetitively switching between radio/tv station, random images across a screen, or paintings/photos seen in a gallery)

Your poem should NOT conform to any rhyme scheme
Your poem MUST include Fragment(s) somewhere  in the title

If you are stuck for inspiration, then why not:
– Utilize pieces of any draft poems you have written
– Take a long published poem or prose and write it as an erasure poem (cite the source of course)

For more clarification, see the Poetry style definition “Fragment”

And Finally – so that others can find you, add your poem to the Mr Linky below and go visiting others, as that is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.