Dear Gather Afficionados:
Are we having fun yet?
Last week our poetic device was personification, and we got lots of great responses.Â Not so much the letter narration, but thatâ€™s OK.Â If you get inspired, just shoot it on in.
Personification, the assignment of human qualities to an animal, inanimate object, or abstract concept, lets the reader relate to an image or a poetic truth with his or her own human experience, on a visceral level, as one person to another.
This weekâ€™s device isâ€¦Allusion!Â Allusion is a reference to a commonly known work of literature or piece of history.Â As with personification, allusion lets the reader relate to your poem on a deeper, more intuitive level.Â Namely, the reader reacts with the feeling or value judgment which he or she associates with the event or piece of literature alluded to.
A classic example is â€œThe Second Comingâ€ by W.B. Yeats.Â â€œAnd what rough beast, its hours come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?â€Â The biblical, triumphant second coming of Christ is used ironically to lament the faithlessness of humankind: â€œThe best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensityâ€¦â€
My â€œThe Visitationâ€Â also invokes the Second Coming in a note of despair, I noted with astonishment as I wrote this.Â By contrast, though, this is a wild romp, a sort of surreal amalgam of the biblical Nativity story with Easy Rider.Â First, here we have an allusion to the Nativity story, which provides the background for the entire poem.Â And while weâ€™re on that, donâ€™t you dare use the excuse â€œIâ€™m not well-read enough to use allusions in my writing.â€Â Everybody is familiar with the Nativity!Â As far as that goes, pretty much everybody is familiar with the Rolling Stones, am I right?Â Look at lines 23 and 24.Â Line 24 alludes toÂ their song â€œSympathy For The Devilâ€ by means of a direct quotation, but woven seamlessly into the narrative.
There are many other ways to introduce allusions. I might have introduced the idea of Satan by describing a character as having horns and a red tail.Â In our first example, Yeats uses a visual allusion to bring his â€œbeastâ€ to life: theÂ image of the Sphinx.
This weekâ€™s narrative point of view is Diary Narrative.Â This is another fun device full of delightful possibilities!Â I had a gas writing "Voyage To Gliese 581g"Â which is written via the device of an astronautâ€™s journal.Â A delightful example from our reference guide (Points Of View: An Anthology of Short Stories, Moffett and McElheny, eds.)* is â€œThe Yellow Wallpaperâ€ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.Â Diary narration can be an excellent way to introduce an unreliable narrator, as in â€œYellow Wallpaper,â€ in which we eventually find out that the diarist is blissfully unaware of her bizarre predicament.
*Do consider ordering a copy of this from Amazon for reference. You can get a used copy for under $4 including shipping.Â It will be worth every penny.
The Prompt:Â Write a story using the device of Diary Narration.Â No more than 1000 words, please.
And/or write a poem which uses some sort of historical or literary allusionâ€”or throw one into your story.
- PutÂ SunWE in the title and tags.
- Some indication of which prompt you are responding to is helpful.
- Deadlines are open.Â This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week from today.Â If you want to keep working on your Letter Narration story, please do, and get it in when you can.
- I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
- If you would like a little more academic critique--but still very friendly and positive--include the word "rigorous" in your post (e.g. "rigorous critique wanted").
Here are the responses to last weekâ€™s prompt.Â Let me know if I missed yours.Â I hope you can take a few minutes and read some of the other submissions.
When You Were Gone: John Beck personification, simile
Gus's Life: Karen Vaughn personification
Atlas Sighed: Richard Lynn Livesay personification, simile
Spring Fall: Sheila Deeth Personification
Sower of Darkness: Â Irina Dimitric Personification, metaphor
Text Messages To and From the Little Engine That Could: G.M. Jackson personification/letter narration
Again, for convenience, my example: Â Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry?: Â DW
Â© 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. Â Please share this on Gather.com, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy. Â Doug's latest book is The Depressed Guy's Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.
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