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Narrative Forms

First Person : When I got home from the store, I ate the whole box of cookies. Later, I felt sick. I know it's nobody's fault but my own.
Second Person : When you get home from the store, you eat the whole box of cookies. Later, you feel sick. You know it's nobody's fault but your own.
Third Person : When Bob got home from the store, he ate the whole box of cookies. Later, he felt sick. "Nobody's fault but my own," he thinks to himself.

Example of Free Verse in First Person Narrative

Last night I dreamed of X again
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed
I never got her out
but now I’m glad.
-from A Color of the Sky, Tony Hoagland

Example Prose Poem in First Person Narrative

Here comes your neighbor driving up a luxury sedan just like your luxury sedan except he paid extra for the little headlight wipers and the gold linked license plate frame—and you didn’t. You thought they were extraneous, a little much… and now your neighbor comes rubbering by, waving real slow, doing the grown-up equivalent of “ha-ha!” which is basically, “ha-ha! I am worth more than you.”
-from Empress of Sighs, by Beth Lisick

Example Short Story Form </>

We all assumed that Tom would come back after a week or two of being on Mars, but something about it must have really struck him, because we quickly realized he was never coming back, not unless the Earth got all dried up and turned red, and changed its name to Mars. Then maybe he’d come back, but then what would be the point?
-from Wild Horses, by Gabriel Marc Delhaye

Example First-Person Monologue

I wasn’t supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warnings to start applying myself… but I didn’t do it. So I got the axe. They give guys the axe quite frequently at Pencey. It has a very good academic rating, Pencey. It really does.
-from A Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Expressed Identity Metaphor:
“X is Y.” Your heart is an ocean. War is a burning ember.
“The Y of X.” The ocean of your heart. The burning embers of war.
“X’s Y.” Your heart’s ocean. This war’s embers.

Verbal Metaphor:
Expressed by the conflict between the verb (the action word) and its noun subject (the person/place/thing/idea)… usually….
X does something that Y would probably do: The tide of your heart rolled in for the evening. Newspapers smoldered with the embers of yesterday’s battle.

Try these sentence-starters to build striking metaphors.

The sky on the horizon was____________like ______________________ that ______________________.

Their kiss was _____________________________________.

He gave a look like _____________________________as though ________________________.

The old man’s breath was _____________________________________.

The _______________________of the city __________________________ like _____________________________.

The voice on the other end of the line ____________________like _______________________ waiting for ________________.

Continuing Metaphors:
Try writing a full poem with an extended metaphor that runs throughout the piece. Here are two quick examples:

When new friends
Point at dents, concerned, and ask,
“What happened to your car?” I answer,
“It was like that when I bought it.”

When I met Carol she was driving
A pretty good car
Except for the air conditioner
Which used to make the engine overheat.
-excerpt from “Cartalk: A Love Poem” by Jack McCarthy (What do the cars say about the differences of these two?)

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just ourselves—
And Immortality.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too
For His Civility
-excerpt from “Because I Could Not Stop For Death (712)” by Emily Dickinson (Where is this carriage taking her?!)

A couple of ideas for continuing metaphor poems:
Even the metaphors we live with subconsciously can provide grounds for further exploration in a poem. For example, we can bring flowers to someone we are trying to impress on a date, we bring flowers to a funeral, and a fistful of dandelions were probably one of the first gifts we ever gave someone, usually a parent. When you mention a flower in your poem, you can use it conjure up any or all of these things or break down these conventions. Could you write a poem about a flower that is about all of these things? Or any other ‘loaded’ object?

Ask history and currents events out for a playdate. Feel free to play around with time. Historical and popular figures can serve as metaphors, particularly if they suggest a dominant theme for most readers. Pop culture icons, world leaders, parents, and religious figures are all fair game. At this mental party, they might get talking about an issue you care about. Jot down ideas for what they might say. What does the nature of this person say as a metaphor?

It's All About the Love

This is a brand new community for anyone teaching:
Spoken Word
Hip Hop
Creative Writing
Et cetera.

Rather than an academic hob-nob, I'm hoping this will be a place to bounce ideas of ways to communicate ideas, post lesson plans, and share resources.

My Intro:
I'm a poetry mentor for Teens Rock the Mic via the Juno Collective in Minneapolis by way of the Loft. The young folks with whom I'm fortunate to be working are utterly fabulous, talented, dedicated to their craft, and wise beyond their years. I want what I mentor to them to reflect that.

How about you?



Spoken Word & Poetry Teachers & Mentors

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March 2007


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