Sunday, January 31, 2010

Redneck Zen - Poetry Corner

Piano by Patrick Phillips

I re-read this poem again the other night and was blown away all over again.

The first time I read it, I was taken by the image of the piano itself, the brokenness. I really didn't get much past that.

But, the poet is an old friend and the poem was made famous by Garrison Keillor, so it stayed in my brain.

The leaves and trash built up, blew away, returned.
Then I read it again.

The cracked harp began to sing at the end. I always knew it held music, but I never quite heard it. Yet, like any good piece of music, my appreciation for it had grown in the interim between first reading(s) and this most recent encounter. I'd gotten the wax outta my ears. A high wind, howling, had come past to take the mess away.

I'm glad that Mr. Keillor posted the text of, Piano, on his website so that it could be shared easily with you. I recommend listening to him read, as well. I recommend the whole collection, Boy, a fine collection of verse and a great addition to any library.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smooth Landing

Sampsell: 'The Parachute'

What do we say to someone who knows not what we are saying? Why do we even try? Is our message that urgent, that dire, that we must tell even someone totally illiterate in our language?

I think so. I talked some poor bastard's ear off in Prague. I can't remember what I told him, or why, but only a few seconds of intelligible communication passed between us there in the lobby of that hostel. It was late. I was drunk.

Sampsell presents us with a scene, a simple scene, which is often the best place for a flash to occur. Single setting. Two characters. Simple, compressed.

We feel the narrator's bafflement in the face of a non-English speaker. He searches for "handles" in the language, words or phrases to hang onto. "Parachute" is what he finds. The man lands in his brain. A story is told, contact made.

A story within a story. Metafiction? Perhaps. But, the story-within is told in one word, "Parachute." That's compression!

Lots of fun. I recommend reading this Flash for yourself. Report back, tell me what you think. Really.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thoughts on an Approach to Flash

As I formulate my ideas on the craft of flash fiction, I've come up with an annoying acronym which will serve some sort of purpose. I'm not much for prompts, though I'm coming around, what I do tend to gravitate towards is more of a general focus - a trajectory to guide the work. So, here are the four main trajectories I tend to use when writing flash:

  1. Narrative - try to focus solely on a narrative. Eliminate as much excess description and exposition as possible. Tell just the story. If you compress it tightly enough, the rest will come bubbling to the surface.
  2. Image - find an image and use your laser beam intensity to give it context and meaning.
  3. Character - that guy who used to live next door to you when you were ten? The chimerical character you just imagined? Lets' see her and only her. More than a sketch, this sort of flash does require some action to illuminate the character.
  4. Emotion - What exemplifies a particular emotion? What sort of scenario brings it to the surface. Perhaps it's a confluence of complimentary and conflicting emotions which bubble up. This is a tricky one which will borrow from the other three, but try to keep the emotion at the forefront - everything else is in its service.
So, there it is: N.I.C.E. How quaint and perfect, eh?

I also considered discussing idea, but that wrecks the the acronym and is so similar to the approach one would use for emotion that I bagged it. Fill it in yourself.

Anyhow, comments are open and I'd love to hear a reaction.

Friday, January 1, 2010