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Learning the Scope of the Ropes

Learning the Scope of the Ropes

By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio

     I realized the other day that the title of the magazine "Poets & Writers" draws a distinction between people who compose their thoughts into stanzas and people who don't. It occurred to me that maybe, at the risk of losing hundreds of readers, I should come out and say it: I cross genres. In fact, not only do I write poetry and creative nonfiction, I dabble in fiction from time to time. 

     While I'm a creative person, and I sometimes use colorful language, I'm usually a black-and-white thinker. Life/death, good/evil, right/wrong. By that measure, I should agree with the above magazine, incorporated: you're either writing poetry or you're not.

     But I don't agree. I don't think that, as a writer, I have to step from the rowboat of poetry to board the steamship of prose. In fact, I don't even think there's more than one vessel. I think all of us, poets "and" writers alike, are on one big carrack. On this ship, as any, there's a continuum from the safest places to sit, on down to the roughest and most dangerous. There are passengers below deck checking on the rum supply, and those above, some gazing forward and some longingly looking back. Some in sun and some in the shade of the sails. But we don't have assigned seats. You can, actually, move toward the poetic or back away as you see fit. 

     In literary navigating, there are degrees of narrative and degrees of lyricism; in its rigging there are long metaphors and short, complex knots and, as any editor knows, grannies. All of us passengers get our fuel from the same galley fare of diction, characterization, setting, et cetera, and – on a good day – strong prevailing winds.

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Kristen Thompson

Published on June 26, 2014

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