A Thin Line between Poetry & Fiction
Èlan Literary Magazine is celebrating its 30th year Anniversary. In honor of the evolution of our published writing, our editorial staff is appreciating the techniques and stylistic choices of those that have inspired them.
I am a writer that is constantly battling whether I see myself as a fiction writer or as a poet. I think that I do well in both aspects but there always seems to be the need to categorize myself. Recently I have found that both worlds are attainable through hybrid writing. I am really inspired by writers such as Jamaal May and Lee Ann Roripaugh. These are artists who tell their poetry through a narrative lens. One of my favorite pieces by Jamaal May is, “How to Get Your Gun Safely out of Your Mouth”.
The piece is a prose poem in which the examination of the retaining the will to live, to take a moment and breath. The poem takes you through a series of moments, and lists out the ideas to get the reader to take their time and consider the options to move forward. May uses second person perspective to his advantage in the poem, as he’s talking to the “you”, but he is also speaking of himself in the piece. I recently, tried to do this in my own poetry examining a similar pool of thought, and I wasn’t as successful with my endeavors, but I want to be able to speak to the reader and for myself.
Lee Ann Roripaugh, is able to take on a more personal approach and even creates an almost, folktale, storyteller vibe. The voices in her poem seem wise and the structure of her poems mimic this. The poetic elements tangle with that natural and ethereal voice which makes me feel that her own story is something I can always take to heart.
I believe I am drawn to prose poetry and poems that feel like stories because of their relatability aspect. Story telling is something all people have exposure to, and it makes a poem seem more accessible, and the visual style of a prose poem or hybrid piece always seems to be a journey. I am always interested in how visual structure can change the perspective. A reader can see the piece and dive in, and afterwards, feel in their chest that what they experienced was unique.
How to Get Your Guns Safely Out of Your Mouth
Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea,
clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains. Not before the end of this
song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page or a woman
apologizes for dialing the wrong man again—not before you learn her
name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret
catching in your throat—Are you done? Go ahead and squeeze after
the hinges are reinforced on all doors, the house secure from storm or
intruder, your laces tied, this commercial break over, drywall taped,
spackled, painted—a nail driven, a painting hung and adjusted—
there is still so much to adjust, arrange, there is still time—and you
write your letter, correct every letter,
scrawl the signature so swift and
crooked it becomes the name of another—relax the
jaw that holds the barrel in place,
remove gun, point to heaven, and squeeze until the clip
is empty like the chamber.
- Jamaal May
-Kiara Ivey, Senior Layout & Design Editor