Monday, May 01, 2006


Having completed the first proper draft of the third (though not chronologically speaking) in my series of serial killer poems, I am facing the questions I usually face – does it stand alone, does it need to? As usual, I don’t feel that I am any closer to answers that satisfy me.

I’ve looked at other series and sequences and it seems to me that whilst it is perfectly possible to make single poems in a thematic sequence stand alone quite satisfactorily, it isn’t entirely possible to do that with a character based sequence – without the other poems in the series, the reader will never see the full character / story. But, what I really can’t work out is what each of the poems needs, to enable it to stand alone.

To me, each of the three poems so far stand entirely alone and, apart from tinkering (which could still be substantial), they all feel complete as far as content is concerned. My problem is that, to some of their readers so far, at least two of them don’t feel like complete pictures in themselves – they rely on the others in the series.

Even if I do decide that one or two of them don’t stand alone, does it really matter? I’ve read some discussions about series and sequences and about what is ‘correct’ but, isn’t it more important for me to ask myself what is important to me and to these poems?

Still thinkin’. By the way, the picture is of a Remington ‘Bullet Knife’ that appeared in the latest poem. This one is an R293 jack knife, known as a ‘Hunter / Trader / Trapper’. Don’t you just love authentic detail?


Cailleach said...

You may need to leave distance and time between the end of this cycle of poems to see that answer of whether the poems can stand alone.

When I write a sequence of poems, I usually find that there are one or two that do stand independently and others that only make sense within the context of the others.

Hell, you could say that everything you write comes from a sequence - your own experience of life. Because that's ultimately what people put into expression, into their writing. Their own unique perceptions and translations of things that they have seen: what I guess Rob would call those "shining moments" or what Walter Pater referred to as the fleeting fragementary nature caught in moments of human experience. Those moments and our attempts at expressing them are sometimes all that keeps us from the fear of the abyss staring back at us.

Oh dear, I seem to have come over all blabby again! Is your third draft anywhere for viewing yet?

Messalina said...

Have you been studying today, by any chance? ;o)

Thanks for your thoughts - that all makes a lot of sense - and a good point about the context of experience. I also thought later about the fact that all of my readers who complained that the latest two didn't stand alone might have had different views if they hadn't known about the other(s). You can't turn knowledge and experience off, can you? Anyway, it feels like a circular argument at the moment - you're right about needing the distance in order to judge! :o)

The three so far are (in chronological order):

After Carl. Sunday in Dad's car.
Before Yvette. Paris gap year.
After Elaine. On the moor.

The latest one is the 2nd - it's on PFFA in the More C&C list. If you've got the time (or are avoiding a TMA ;o)), the critiques / reactions make interesting reading.

Cailleach said...

Oh dear, is it showing again ;¬)

I know what you mean about a circular argument - that's the problen with cycles! ;¬)

Thanks Messalina - will go and take a look!