I was fiddling with my work from a historical novel based on a true story, a place where poetic memoir came to be. Although what I had written all my life was poetic memoir, it never struck me to reverse the situation, from book to poetic memoir, usually writers of poetry or verse, advance to novel. But a novelist can turn what they said in 250 pages, into several books of poetic memoir. What I have noted below is only a quick draft of hidden ideas within the page I lifted from a pile nearby.
I was thinking about my Grandmother reaching the shores of America, and this small piece from probably one thousand pages – is a sample of cutting, condensing, and never forget the flow of your words.
In this QUICKLY written poetic memoir, Grandmother has already reached the island, (Ellis Island) now on another boat to the mainland (NYC). Remember to read your work out loud, in my case, pause your reading appropriately.
She rode a ferry to the big city – shoulder to shoulder – strangers crammed together like fish on a peddlers cart – Italians with their own dialect, Sicilians with tongues from their own village – alone within a strangers world wondering if she took the right track. Track number ten, she repeated to herself, “Number ten, my Papa said, number ten.”
In front of the wagon a gold building, here train number ten would sweep her away from the big city, into her brother’s arms. She would be last to leave the wagon.
Buildings grew from her eyes view – crowds on the ferry, necks stretching in search of a New World, as small children snuggled closer to their Mama or Papa – children hiding from a strangers glance. She sat still, alone, knowing no one.
From ferry to wagon she carried a small white satchel – once again her eyes stared at a lady holding a torch, now smaller. Her body rocked back and forth as she listened to the horse shoe meet cobblestone. Hours since a lady holding a torch appeared as large as buildings now surrounding her still shoulder to shoulder with strangers.
She told me, “I tried not to look into a stranger’s eye, or touch knees. My knuckles white as I held tight to my white satchel.”
If she closed her eyes she would hear the same beggars, vendors yelling out – nuts, get your nuts here back home in her village square instead, wagon wheels wobble on cobblestone.
Beneath ground, tracks where trains moved, people shoved one another – she came close to an edge falling deeper into earth – light from day had disappeared.
NOTE: This continues, where she enters Grand Central, and her own reaction, etc. You can take many situations and twist and turn it into yet another genre, as long as you know the topic, subject, see in your minds’ eye everything you write. Remember, nothing is perfect the first time around.
Take a moment from your life or someone you knew growing up – write it out in long hand or on the computer, and then cut, cut, cut, until you have the basics and enough to read aloud, enough to share with others who will shake their head up and down, knowing what you said, hearing similar stories – because now you are the storyteller in a poetic memoir.
Poetic Memoir, where less is more.