Monday, February 22, 2010

The Writer's Life: Thinking About Linda Bierds Again

The train image! I can't stop thinking about it ... A few posts ago I wrote about Linda Bierd's Saturday workshop at Richard Hugo House on the subject of what to do when your poems get stuck. What was most interesting to me was her way of describing the architecture of a poem. Besides the single stanza poem, or monostrophe, we also discussed the section poem. Unlike the monostrophe which whispers to the reader, "Reader take a deep breath, and then dive right in," the section poem states, "Reader, leave and come back; leave and come back." The imagery is elevated to symbolism and invites the reader to linger here, linger here. And then she said this:

You're in a dark field--- and a train is passing by very, very slowly; and you see each window as discreet - one cinematic frame followed by another. The pace is slower than a train would actually be. It is only after the whole train passes you by that you see the connections and make the windows connect to a whole.

You're off the hook for any kind of transition. You can shift everything. Change where the camera's eye is - move from extreme close-up to high angle shot.

As someone who teaches film, I loved this cinematic metaphor for the section poem -- which I often write and then feel a little guilty about. It seems easier to write with this much freedom. On the other hand, that freedom leads to greater expectations for myself. The train image will stay with me --- especially since I also seem to write about trains.

Do others have a preference for the section poem? I think of the book, The Soul Out of Nothing, by Oleanna Katiyak Davis as  doing amazing acrobatics with the form. It seems a structure that allows for endless inventions and delights.


  1. Wonderful quote from Linda, Susan!

    One of her books was on photography, so it doesn't surprise me that she uses that language to also discuss poetry.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed your class.