Writing Tips – What is Narrative Poetry? (Podcast)


Hi everyone. Anna from Girls on Key. We do videos and podcasts about poetry. Today’s video is about narrative poetry. What is narrative. What is poetry and what is narrative poetry? Hey guys so today we’re talking about narrative poetry. What aspects of storytelling in poetics make up narrative poetry and what are some examples? And how can we … how can we write a narrative poem if that’s something you’re interested in. So this is one form that really interests me because I like where different genres meet together, so for example fiction and poetry, playwriting an fiction, playwriting and poetry, music and poetry, and music and storytelling. So I love where the intersections and praxis of those forms come together. Something I explore in my own work. One example I’ve been working on is poetic monologues about people who’ve experienced miracles and so using a dramatic monologue, but in a poetic form. So that’s quite interesting to me, so I want to talk about first of all, what are the characteristics of storytelling, of narrative, what are the characteristics of poetry and how do they come together in narrative poetry? So the elements of storytelling are character, place or setting, plot. So what happens, the action and then conflict and resolution and drama. So I will talk more about the dramatic code in a minute because that’s also very interesting and so those are the elements of storytelling and narrative. So the poetic elements of figurative language are rhythm and rhyme and meter, alliteration, metaphor, simile. There are others, but we’ll just stick with those for the moment. So when those come together you may have for example there are a couple of types of narrative poetry specifically and those might be the epic such as Homer’s Odyssey or the Iliad. Then you might have a ballad such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge. Other examples of epics include the Divine Comedy by Dante, and then we have verse novels. We also have what almost equates to short stories but as in a very poetic forum and that’s examples such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales of course. And so examples of what might not be seen as narrative poetry, so looking at not the opposite, but other types of poetry would be imagism for example, where poets such as Ezra Pound. You’ve got poets such as E E Cummings, William Carlos Williams uses it. And imagism is a type of modernist poetry where it’s very focused on the individual images and exploring from every angle those images. And so it can be more abstract, more experimental, but doesn’t not necessarily it can be straightforward as well but it’s very image based. And so narrative poetry is story based, imagism is image based and so when we talk about the dramatic code. I really recommend a book called the Anatomy of Story. Now I’ve placed a link in the description below, and it’s one of my favourite books, I recommend it a lot. I’ve got it highlighted. I’ve read it ten times. And so in that book it also talks about what’s called the dramatic code. Now the dramatic code is essentially every story has a linear line that we follow as we read through the story and it starts with the character and it starts with them having a desire, a want or a need and then we see how do they reach that goal? How do they get to that desire? And so and what happens is as they start off with that desire and that call, what then happens is things come to bring conflict to that or to interrupt that goal or to block or to stop. There are obstacles that they must face or they must encounter as they go along route to reach their goal. And so what keeps us engaged in a story in a dramatic story is the idea that we’re rooting for this person. We want to see them succeed. We want to see them reach their goal, and we want to find out how they overcome the obstacles and quite often there is a learning, a moral that comes out of it which is based around a character development. So at the start of the story the character might have a flaw and what happens is as they encounter obstacles and they have to overcome those obstacles to get what they want. They often have undergo a character change and they become … they learn something and they grow as a person. And so we as we read those stories it helps us to to learn and grow as well. And so in the rich tradition of oral storytelling and narration that every culture has. That’s been one important thing is how to transmit culture and how to transmit moral living, right living, whichever way you want to look at that through telling stories. And now interestingly a lot of cultures, music and melody and rhythm and rhyme was often added to those stories as a way to help the the people to remember that story in order to pass it on. And so it has within it the idea of being able to memorise and to then pass it on to the other generations. So that’s also quite interesting. Yeah, so just to recap. So narrative poetry brings together the elements of narration and of storytelling with the elements of poetry. So the elements of storytelling we have character, setting, plot and conflict and also the dramatic code. And then the poetic elements, we have the figurative language such as alliteration. We have simile, metaphor. We have assonance, we have all of those things. And you can look up those online as well. But um if you’re wanting to write a narrative poem, let’s look at how we would approach it. So you can approach it first from the narrative side, or you can approach it from the poetic side. And so what you would want to do first though is to think about what kind of story you’re wanting to tell. So is it your own story? Are you going to be the narrator, who is going to be the narrator of that story? And whose story are they telling? So as the character, who is the the person that the poem is about? Where is it set? So where is the setting, is it an island, is it in a house is it in a field? Where is the person situated? And sitting can also include the time of day, the time of year, you can look at things like the seasons and you can look at things like night scapes, landscapes, outdoor indoor settings. So explore different types of settings and maybe have a look online to research. If you’re interested in a particular place or country and wanting to explore it, you can maybe have a look at some images to get inspiration for your city. And so then we have the plot, which is what happens. So in a narrative, there’s always plot points. So what happens, what actually happens in the story is the action you know. And quite often there’s an inciting, what’s called an inciting incident. So at the beginning of a story we have … something happens to the person that causes them to wake up or to receive a call or to have a desire. For example, if someone gets made redundant, there would be an inciting incident. They have a car accident. They meet someone or it could be a simple things such as finding a coin on the road. Or something much more dramatic. So a death in the family, a death of a family member or spouse. And so the inciting incident is often what then incites the action. So that’s just from … that’s just from storytelling which is quite interesting. And so think about maybe starting with that. Start to think about something that’s happened to you or to someone else and then what actions resulted from there. And so once you have a little bit of a plot, and you kind of plot out your points then you might want to think about how you could maybe do a stanza for each plot point or you could look at how to create images around those things if you wanted it to be more image based and not as narrative. And the thing that sets it apart from micro fiction because micro fiction is actually … can be very similar to narrative poetry because that the actual form of narrative poetry looks quite similar to micro fiction. And not talking about epics or ballads I’m talking about when you have a specific form called narrative poetry, often it’s justified across the page and a paragraph of checks that runs together and that’s very similar to micro fiction as well. So and that’s also another interesting genre if you’re wanting to look into exploring fiction in a short form. And so have a look at that and obviously the short story form as well. So and those sorts of forms don’t focus as much on the poetic language but of course they can include those and do include those. Every type of writing does include some type of figurative language. But poetry is more defined by its use. So it might have much more emphasis on the rhyme or the illustration, etc. So yeah, I hope that … I hope this has been informative. This is part of our Editor Speak series. And in a couple of weeks we’re going to have a very exciting broadcast which I’m going to put a bit more information about in the link in the description and it’s going to be an Editor’s Round Table with Michelle Cahill from Mascara Literary Review and also Michele Seminara from Verity La. And so we’re going to have a discussion. We’re going to film it in Sydney and we’re going to broadcast it. And so I’ve put the event in the description. Please um keep an eye on the time so that you can tune in when it goes live on our YouTube. If you have any questions about narrative poetry or anything that you’d like to add, anything that I’ve got wrong or just any suggestions please prop them in the comments, and I will see what I can do. Let’s have a discussion about it. And if there’s any other videos you want to see, obviously chuck them in the comments as well. And we look forward to seeing you in the next video or podcast. Thanks guys.

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