Friday, April 30, 2010

Writing A Big Stack of Horror Poetry

Today is the last day of NaPoWriMo, A Poem A Day in April. I have succeeded in producing thirty poems this month, although the quality varies dramatically from "this is a solid poem" to "this has no redeeming features." Not a surprise, naturally.

My overall focus was horror, with an attempt to hone in on the more gruesome moments of childhood. I wasn't able to produce only horror, since sometimes the muse just does its own thing. Still, of thirty poems, twenty had a horror, weird, or speculative theme. Ten of those were specific to childhood horror. I am pretty pleased, since that ten produced about eight that have a solid core and related emotional context. With a few additions and some aggressive editing, I might actually produce that chapbook I was aiming for when I started a month ago.

Art like "I Did Not Do It" was perfect inspiration for this project. As I go forward, I'm going to continue to use the same general procedure to allow the art to move me to write. Here's my process.  I specifically look for art and images that raise questions in my mind. In this case, what is really happening in this picture?  It appears that the not-so-innocent looking child his hiding a knife. Is that her hand print or that of a victim?  And who is she trying to hide all this from, anyway?

After asking these questions of a piece of art, I take a step back and see if I can put my finger on what it is that makes the particular work quite so horrific. Where is the emotion centered, the discomfort, the nasty surprise? What is she feeling? What is the possible victim feeling (assuming he or she can still feel)? How about the person standing out of our view, possibly scolding the child?

And then I take another step back, and try to forget about the specific art itself. My goal isn't to try to duplicate the art in words. My goal is to use the emotional power and the situation as inspiration. So I call up other places, other settings, in which the emotions might be similar. I imagine twists or variations within childhood that hold the same charge. Sometimes this leads me right out of the genre entirely, and I end up writing a poem that has little to do with the art in question. That's fine. The same piece of art might generate inspiration for a dozen poems that to a reader appear completely unrelated either to each other, or the art.

But because I continue to focus on similar feelings, there are some poems coming out with related emotional turns.  So I am going to continue to follow this line, adding to my child-horror poetry until I get a set that seems to play out a coherent emotional arc.

Well, it all sounds good on paper.  Now I have to see if I can really do it.  Then comes the fun part of researching how one might publish a chapbook of horror poetry, which I have never done.  Comments and advice are always welcome ...

Pax

Credit Line:  I Did Not Do It by red-riding on deviantArt.

My Comments: This is the sort of horror art that really holds my attention. Gore and shock factor are low, and the creepy factor is high. The piece asks more questions than it answers. The art is disturbingly clean and clear, with judicious use of color. There is the barest hint of humor in the context. And most importantly, the emotions expressed on the face of the child are really strange - she appears to be a bit insane, but not so crazy that she does not have some appreciation for the horror of her own situation. The piece is dense with ideas.

5 comments:

Big Bad Red said...

Thank you very very much! I'm honored!

Bryce Ellicott said...

Hello Red - Glad you stopped by! It is great to have your art on the site.

Ted Cross said...

I apologize for being off topic, but you are the only blogger I know who seems to know what he's doing regarding astronomy. Perhaps you could answer a question? My world has three moons. If more than one appeared in the sky, would they have similar phases or could they be different, i.e. they may be in quite different orbits and may appear either close or far from each other in the sky. I opened a chapter with one moon appearing half full and another as just a sliver, but a critter thought that couldn't happen. I just plain don't know...

Bryce Ellicott said...

Hello Ted - The short answer is that it is far more likely your moons will be in different phases than in the same phase. Phase is a function of the geometry between the moon, star, and planet. Moons will only be in the same phase when they are 'lined up' in the sky (conjunction). I'll come by your blog and leave a more detailed answer there.

Ted Cross said...

You are too kind! Thanks!