Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some (Fragmentary, Sorry!) Thoughts on Small Stones

It's interesting to me, the effect that writing these small stones can have. Kerri commented on one of my posts that she thought it sounded like a "beautiful little poem." (And thank you, Kerri--I take that as a very sweet compliment.) And I guess it sort of is. But I never really think of myself as writing poetry--or at least, not anything anyone would immediately identify as poetry.

I do write what I suppose are prose poems, though my writing group and I have jokingly come to call them "lyrical fragments." Mostly because that's not a "real" literary designation, which feels like I'm happily dodging the responsibility for using an established term like "prose poem," but it also feels very true to what's important to me about those pieces. I like the fragmentary, the momentary; I like writing that assumes the job of a snapshot, that tries to capture one particular, specific moment in time.

Which is of course why the River of Stones project is so deliciously appealing to me. But I can't deny that following Fiona and Kaspa's suggestions for how to write a "stone," as they call it, is shifting something. I guess it's making more concrete to me something I've known for a while about poetry--that one aspect of writing it, at least, is about whittling the words you use down to the bare minimum necessary to tell what you want to tell. I've been more focused than usual on this the last week or so, writing these moments of observation. Not all of them are fully whittled down, of course, and which words are entirely necessary is, obviously, always open to interpretation. But it does strike me that much of what I've written so far somehow falls more easily into the realm of poetry than I think my writing normally does.

I've noticed, reading other people's stones, that many folks are choosing to use line breaks. And sometimes I think that works, and sometimes, I find myself wishing someone had left them out--which is neither here nor there, since one thing I hate is when writers critique one another's work in a way that essentially amounts to saying, "Well, I think you should change this, because I would have written this differently." That, for the record, just in case anyone was wondering, is very un-useful criticism for a writer.

(It is also--and I say this as someone who quite often gets paid to edit other people's writing--a super irritating way for an editor to operate. But that's another post altogether.)

Anyhoo--line breaks. I find my unwillingness to use them for these stones interesting. I can imagine how they might work...and then I can imagine how incorrect they'd feel to me. Like someone else's line breaks--like someone who would have written my stones differently.


  1. I like your writing, Amy, because it is like you're actually talking to me. It's very personal - like a conversation with a friend (of course, I'd be an old(er) friend). On my blog, I try to write with brevity so the small stones concept is natural for me. Sorry - I'm not being brief in this comment!

  2. Barb, never feel you need to brief in your comments here. I have a habit of leaving *paragraphs* on other people's blogs! :-) I've actually been thinking of writing a post about it, but the short version is--if something someone has written moves me, I want to talk to them about it.

    Anyway, thank you for the very kind compliment! And friends of all ages are welcome and cherished here.

  3. For some reason, a small handful of beautiful words seems more like a poem to me than a serious 'proper' poem ever does. I must look at this small stones idea. I am intrigued.

    Sweet of you to add the link to my blog too! Thanks :)

  4. Very interesting and eye-opening post. I think I've been using line breaks in my small stones more out of habit than anything. Going forward I will consider whether or not they actually add something to the piece. I am enjoying your writing very much, btw. Thanks!