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Poetic Camouflage

Poetry Camouflage

I've had an idea bubbling away in the back of my mind for 6 months now, and I have been trying to decide whether it wants to be a short story, a piece of micro fiction, or a poem, or indeed all three. I like the idea that the same story can be told in different guises, which for me would see the short story having the most exploration , the micro fiction having the most punch, and the poem revealing the most depth.

The book I'm reading at the moment is a collection of short stories by Anne Enright, Yesterday's Weather and the short story that led to this contemplation of short stories and poetry was 'The House of the Architect's Love Story', and I will simply let the poetry of this extract speak for itself. I'm listening to Yesterday's Weather as an audiobook, so punctuation such as line breaks, commas and full stops are all my interpretation of the narrator's reading and my interpretation of the poetic elements. I'm assuming in the short story this is one single paragraph which I have laid out as a poem.

extract from The House of the Architect's Love Story
in the collection of short stories, Yesterday's Weather by Anne Enright

Of all the different love stories
I chose an architect's love story
with strong columns and calculated lines of stress
a witty doorway and curious steps
In the house of an architect's love story
the light is always moving
the air is thick with light
From outside the house of the architect's love story
is a neo-Palladian villa
but the inside
there are corners, cellars, attics, toilets,
a room full of books with an empty socket in the lamp
There are cubby holes that smell of wet afternoons
there are vaults, a sacristy,
an office with windows set in the floor
there is a sky blue nursery where the rocking horse is shaped like a bat
and swings from a rail,
and in the centre of it all
is a bay window where the sun pours in
It is familiar to us all
at least, it was familiar to me,
the first time I walked in
because all my dreams were there
and there were plenty of cracks in the wall.

Knowing which details to pick out when describing a room in a house in a poem is a vital part of the poetic art. Sometimes it's not the fact that there is a small wooden table with a teacup full of cold tea on it that needs to be mentioned so much as the tray the cup is sitting on, with its decoration, the stubbornly dried circular cup marks, and its chipped edge that is the image that needs to catch a reader's eye; if you were writing The House of the Architect’s Love Story would you have described the wear and tear on the horse’s rockers rather than the nursery being sky blue? A lot of the time it is not immediately obvious which items deserve to appear in the poetry scene, and by taking some out and bringing others in a poem or a story can twist, subtly or strikingly, so don't be afraid to look at everything in the room before deciding on whether it needs to be made visible to your reader.

Anne Enright is an Irish writer of essays, short stories and novels. Her novel The Gathering won the Man Booker Prize in 2007 and the Irish Novel of the Year in 2008. The Forgotten Waltz was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012. The Green Road was Irish Novel of the Year in 2015. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


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