Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 21, September 2012)

2. My wishlist for narrative poetry:

• If writers are either taker-outers or putter-inners, then as a habitual taker-outer, I want narratives that put in everything, put in too much—redundancies, repetitions, tangents—and that go on too long.

• As a practitioner of slant, I want narratives of extreme directness and literalness—without the frilly commentary.

• As one easily bored, I want poets to think of stories that are interesting. And if that means diverging from the facts, so be it. And if that means just the facts, so be it.

• As one who likes surprises, I want surprises that comfort, that jump out from well-worn paths. I also want poems that act as snowplows to clear the way for surprising stories.

• As a good schoolgirl, I want stories that break rules but not so much I get jittery and can’t concentrate.

• As a mistruster of authority/convention, I want poems that ignore all laws except the laws of beauty and interestingness, which are for us to discover every time we start.

• As an anxious person, I want stories that guide me step by step to the horror or the slapstick.

• As an advocate of messiness, I want poems that are crafted to the hilt.

• As someone who delights in forms, I want narratives that drape themselves on a form. Forms keep one from blabbing.

• As one who likes to drench herself in long novels, I want poetic narratives that are cinematic, facebookian, twitteresque.

• As someone who writes narrative sequences in pieces and cubist perspectives, I wouldn’t be averse to an epic or a saga. I would also not be averse to a revival of the one-page narrative. Surprise me.

• The storyteller is part of the story. Own that.

• As a white middle-class United Statesian, I want stories from those who aren’t. And I want those stories not to play to middle-class white United Statesian expectations or assumptions about those who aren’t. And I know that’s a tall order and maybe a snotty order. And I demand the same of middle-class white United Statesians and their stories. And I also want narratives that smash ugly and petty labels like “middle-class white United Statesian” and “those who aren’t.”

• Please don’t spell everything out for me—not every event, not every emotional implication. It’s a way of trying to control my reactions to your story, and it makes me irritable and bored. Allow my synapses to do their work. Elizabeth Bishop: “I think the convention of situating everything clearly and immediately can get to be boring, make the reader lazy.” You understand a poem without having everything spelled out, you know you do.