|I cycle past the little window of a whitewashed cottage on the way to work. I can never see inside. One summer's day the window was open. I heard a lady sneeze and a piano reverberate.|
I've several snippets like this in my notebook. The underlying notion of this piece - something hidden becoming known in an unexpected way - can be exploited in a poem. E.g.
- Tighten the language, throw in some linebreaks and with a hint in the title, present it as a little Imagist poem. Maybe like this
(the syllabics are a bonus) Discovery
One morning, cycling past the little cottage
that I can never see inside, I hear a
woman sneeze, a piano reverberate.
- Juxtapose a second stanza to the Imagist poem - maybe about discovering an old friend or colleague's secret - leaving the reader to find the common factor.
- Make the anecdote the heart of a longer, more leisurely poem, the description embellished (flowers in the windowbox, the uneven walls, the small panes of glass in black frames, how all I could see through the window is the back window) and the analogy explained.
Alternatively I could slip it innocuously into the start of a story, then make the character refer back to it, perhaps getting the character to explain the analogy to him/herself as a way to interpret some other episode, some uncovered revelation.
When people read short stories I doubt whether many of them would enjoy an embedded anecdote like this as much as they would enjoy the poem, even though the story might contain several such poems. To claim that the story option is better - or at least, less lazy, less of a cop-out - is as silly as saying that the Beatles should have made the "Yesterday" melody into a symphony rather than a 2' 06" track. That said, "Yesterday" is rather short.
Fortunately, the decision needn't be made. I could write both a story and a poem. It's a ploy used by Jim Murdoch too - at least 5 ideas from his poem collection This is not about what you think have another outing in his novel Living with the Truth.
I think one could extract many "found poems" from novels. I suspect many paragraphs (especially final ones) could be adapted. Consider this, from "Flight Behaviour" by Barbara Kingsolver
|At the upper east corner of the field they began to make their way down along the property line between their pasture and the Cooks' dead orchard. The skeletal peach trees in their rows leaned into the slope with branches upstretched like begging hands. Casualties of the strange weather. The window in Preston and Cordie's room looked out on these trees, and for a while she'd kept the curtains drawn, it was so depressing. (p.355)|
This is clearly from a novel rather than a short story. It could be made into a poem
Beyond our garden, a dead orchard.
I close the curtains of our child's bedroom
so he won't stare out too long.