Poetry Tow Truck 26: Working Against Type

Read any number of poetry journals or attend poetry readings regularly, and I guarantee that you will read or hear at least one poem that makes you say, “Wow. That is so different from anything I would ever write. I wonder how the poet did that. Or why. Or what it means.” (C’mon, admit it. You read some poems and have no clue what they mean. We all do.)

We don’t always seek out or try to learn from poets that are very different from us. I know that I very often cannot get to the end of a long poem. (Perhaps I have LPADD – long poem attentive deficit disorder.) And language poets often confuse me. Recently, I posted about hearing Nick Demske read from his self-titled debut. His work is about as different from mine as one can get, but I found it intriguing. His reworking of the sonnet form, his wordplay, and his integration of pop culture are things that I admire. Do I understand completely what he is trying to do in every poem? I will admit that I do not. But can I learn from them? Absolutely.

After discussing Demske’s work with Dana Guthrie Martin, she challenged me to write a poem in the style of Nick Demske, knowing that it was far removed from my usual style. Since I rarely turn down a writing dare, I decided to try it.

Here is how I approached it:

  1. I chose a topic that I have already written about extensively, so that at least my subject matter would be familiar. (The topic was reproduction/infertility.)
  2. I went back to Demske’s collection and listed the elements of his work I would like to try and emulate. Sonnet form. Rhymes that come from hyphenated pieces of words. Pop culture reference. Some form of archaic language. Direct address to the reader. Some swearing.
  3. I played around with it. And it is different from anything else I have written in quite some time. And I rather like it.

So this week, do some reading. Find a poem that is radically different from your writing.  (If you write imagistic free verse, find a tightly-metered rhyming poem. You get the picture.) Then follow the steps above to create your own poem that goes against type.

I will post a few lines of my attempt here, but since I have a very public job and would like to keep it, I will not post the whole poem. 🙂 If you would like to see it, please feel free to email, and I will send it along. Here you go…

Reproduction Blues

…………………………….I pledge allegiance to

the rock and roll of the Richter scale’s seismic

rhythm. This hook-up is too much confu

sion. Clean it up…………………………………..

11 thoughts on “Poetry Tow Truck 26: Working Against Type

  1. I saw his book reviewed somewhere recently (maybe it was by you on Good Reads?) and his poetry is unique. I wonder who could say they write in a similar way! Good prompt idea. I am going on vacation and will take it along…

  2. well of course i want to see it! dude, that’s super cool that you did this. of course i would think so because you used my book as the model. but the fact that you are encouraging embracing things you don’t fully understand…that just seems to me the entire foundation of cltural diversity, so I’m glad to see you promoting it here. I not only read many many poems I don’t understand, I go as far as writing them sometimes, too : )
    send me that poem. i’m way curious. and i’ll tell you if i can pull off this exercise myself.

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