Monday, December 10, 2007

Bending and Breaking Lines

This week’s prompt from Read Write Poem is an excellent one. They are prompting us to examine our line breaks and perhaps revise a poem, with attention to the line breaks. They encourage us to either use an imposed form (if that’s not our bag) or alternatively, use free verse if that’s more our style. I love thinking about line breaks and their effect on the sound of the poem, as well as the meaning of the line and the overall poem. Nerdiness ensued this week.

I decided to use this prompt as an opportunity to revise a poem that I felt wasn’t working. So I went through my major overhaul folder and dug up Bedtime Stories, which I wrote as a prose poem for Poetry Thursday. I decided to impose a line length (ten syllables) and a stanza length, so that I could focus my attention on the language and the image. I also tried to integrate my writing group’s critique. I feel it was a good exercise and it felt intuitive, in its own way.

Bedtime Stories

Once upon a time, there was a young girl
who scrubbed stubborn gray ash from her stone bed
and spun silence into silk and cloaked her

heart inside. She only escaped at night.
She frequented all the right places, pearl
white palaces and crowded balls, parties

where no one noticed her homemade dress, where
nobody knew her real name. Once upon
a time, there was a young boy, trapped in hell,

if hell was a party where people snacked
on fish eggs while whispering idle lies.
He saw the girl from across the room, watched

her anonymous smiles. He was deep in
love. We know what happened next. He followed
her home. After dark. Watched her change back to

gray rags, wax the kitchen floor. He was hooked.
Once upon a time, he made a promise,
gave her a pair of glass shoes, delicate

and transparent as dreams. He said, “Baby,
wear these and walk all the way home with me.”
While he wasn’t watching, she put them on.

Here’s what we don’t know. The shoes were so tight
they sliced the skin clean off her heels, layers
of white flesh peeled away. It hurt like hell.

She was afraid of the blood, but she wore
them anyway, hobbled home. She wore them
every day. Every day she watched her skin

whittle down, like an unfolding onion.
She waited for them to fit perfectly,
her second skin. She waited a long time.


Mariacristina said...

This is a poem that works, because it helps me understand the story of my own life, seen through the eyes of a modern fairytale.The part about the shoe not fitting, yet her waiting for it to fit, that's the clincher.

I love the line breaks, the enjambment from one tercet to the next, starting a new narrative thought in the middle - it all works very well for me.

Poet with a Day Job said...

Jessica: I think this works really well with line breaks - an nice intensity builds as a result. I think it is a tough thing to do: revise something into breaks - and you done a great job. It is one of the things I usually end up having to do because I write so quickly, and forget to do it in draft. One of the things my writing pals told me to do was to read the poem and skip over (and simultaneously cross out) any and every extraneous word - to push the line past logic, but just prior to confusion - to tighten the lines, so that it didn't read like prose. That's my favorite thing to do, since sometimes double meanings and alternative meanings reveal themselves, just with the removal of a singe word, for example:

"Watched her change back to/gray rags"

"Watched her change /to gray rags"

One implies her clothes, one implies her being.


Jo said...

There are some lovely images in here and the shoes, delicate and transparent as dreams, work really well as a metaphor. It sang to me too.

...deb said...

Brilliant & horrifying--I love this. What a way to make revision.

Holy wow.

I can see (read) a ms with this, LRRH & your super-heroine... and more.

sister AE said...

cool story-poem. "she waited a long time" is a terrific end. and if THIS had a sequel, I'd read it.

paisley said...

well i thought this was just wonderful/// i loved the story,, and the way you presented it,, ,but mostly i liked the fact that at some point all of us have more than likely whittled down our own skin,, trying ever so hard to become someone else... and glass slipper or not... it never works.......

Crafty Green Poet said...

I particularly like the combination of matter of fact story telling style and fairy tale. The ending is both gruesome and so very true of so many people trying to become something they're not for the one they love

SweetTalkingGuy said...

Love the way you wove the story, but I bet she's still waiting now!

Anonymous said...

A fine jazzy improvisation on Cinderella, dark & haunting.