More on dramatic poetry

In my blog post on Harry Potter and the dramatic poem I made the statement that I had written narrative poetry but not dramatic poetry. But after cracking open my poetry bible, The Art and Craft of Poetry by Michael J. Bugeja, I am officially retracting that statement.

Bugeja says there are three types of dramatic poems: dramatic episodes, character studies and dramatic sequences. My first Johnstown Flood poem — “Johnstown Sonata in C Major” — is a dramatic sequence and “Song of Cyclops” is pretty much a character study, though by Bugeja’s definition it is missing an important (though perhaps optional) element: irony.

So all that is left is a dramatic episode. Bugeja differentiates a dramatic episode from a narrative poem through the element of point of view and voice. Narrative poems are told either by a storyteller (where the poet as observer makes an appearance in the poem) or narrator (where the poet does not). In the dramatic episode, the poet writes as a character in the story to drive the poem. It is a subtle but important distinction.

And so my attention has continued to be on Minnehaha. I took a walk around Kodaikanal lake today with my boys, who are on a long weekend off from school, and I begin constructing in my mind how to write this dramatic poem I want to do. The story of Minnehaha is divided into three parts and it is difficult for the same character to relate all three parts in the story. So I could divide it up and have three characters tell their part of the story, but that would be a dramatic sequence. I could get fancy and creative and do it all as one part or only tell one part of the story and have it be a dramatic episode. But which part would that be? And thus my brain and nature were one as I strolled around the lake.

I will have time to put this all together in my head pretty soon —  I will be on a long plane ride and then a long train ride (a 24 hour trip one-way) in a few days when I go to read my Beowulf book and then do a workshop on the music of poetry at the Musoorie Writers Festival. I am really looking forward to it. PowerPoint slides are made and I’ve done a couple rehearsals. I will be up in the Himalayas. I can’t wait. But there is a lot I need to take care of on the home portion of the trip for when I am gone. So back at it I go.  

At least I have broadband now — but that’s a story for another time.

Joshua Gray

Washington DC native poet that now lives in Kentucky.

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