Project Proposal- A Bridge Between Fiction and Poetry: Flash Fiction Answers the Call for Innovation and the Poetics of Post-1945 Poetry

As we have moved through the poetics of individual poets and schools of poets, I found myself particularly focused on the goals laid out for their work. The Beats poets wanted a poetry that rode a beat, pointed out political grievances, and embodied a lifestyle; the Black Arts Movement wanted to explore voice, oppression, and societal ills for underrepresented citizens; the New York school, the Language poets, and the Black Mountain poets all seemed to seek ways into the subconscious, ways of expressing the subconscious and tapping into the subconscious of the reader. The Formalists wanted to use the constraints of form in order to demonstrate appreciation for the past while engaging in innovative formulations within those forms. Each of these differing poetics has one thing at least in common: producing poetry, the writing of images, characters, instants, instances, etc., in order to illuminate something, whatever that something may be.

I write fiction, and I am a strong believer in the function of narrative, whether that narrative is linear, overtly coherent, dreamy, surreal, realistic, direct, indirect, minimalistic, maximalist, and/or utterly ambiguous. Long form fiction has its own constraints, as telling a novel-length story requires some level of clarity, some level of closeness, more development of characters, and so on. Short stories typically attempt to tell a story through characters, too, and that story is often told through a series of events, or a sequence of encounters or thoughts leading to a form of change, some revelation. These forms, though sometimes do, don’t often fit into the mode of such poetics as outlined by the different schools we have studied. It is not typical of a short story to be written in the style of most of the poets we’ve studied, much less dictated by philosophies such as those presented by these poetic schools. However, short short stories, flash fiction for example, can be constructed in ways that accomplish the poetics we have studied across the board.

Flash fiction makes use of what exists off the page in a very similar manner as poems, even in ways that would appear to adhere to many of the poetic statements we’ve read. Instead of laying out an entire story, as longer short stories and novels/novellas typically do, flash fiction stories show us a scene, a character, images, a conversation, and even broken timelines, choppy, hazy images. Sometimes a flash piece will take place over the course of a few minutes, but in those few minutes, the best of these stories will somehow find a way to expose a much deeper story that we can interpret through context. Like many of the poems we’ve read this semester, in flash fiction we might get a narrow representation of life, but we are aware by the conclusion that there is much more story between the lines. The implications of word choice, details, dialogue, etc. fills in many gaps in the overall story. Even flash pieces that align more with what the Language poets were doing, like those poems, there remains a much deeper significance than the actual words on the page, suggestive of a narrative, one in which a character’s entire story (almost) can come to be somewhat understood. No other form of prose writing can accomplish such a close relationship to poetry as can flash fiction (and the other forms of very short stories). The obvious exception might be prose poetry, however, I might argue that prose poetry essentially is flash (or micro) fiction.

My goal in for this project is to demonstrate how flash fiction serves as a sort of bridge between poetry and longer-form prose fiction. I want to show how versatile flash fiction truly is, how it can operate in many different ways, like poetry, and how it can accomplish many (if not all) of the poetic theories presented by the different schools of poetry we have discussed. My plan is to generate a flash fiction piece that reimagines themes from individual poems we have read.

More basically, I plan to reread poetic statement, then reread particular poems, decide what that poem is trying to do in relation to content and poetic statements, and then write a flash piece on the same subject matter, attempting to do so with the poetics of the writer in mind. For example, if I were to take something like O’Hara’s “Walking,” I would introduce the poetics, try to surmise what the poem is doing, and then move into what the accompanying flash piece tries to accomplish along those lines.

This is a tentative plan, as I’m still working on the best way to approach this project. My goal will likely remain, in the end, to somehow demonstrate the ways in which flash fiction is a sort of innovation, existing in a space between prose and poetry (though firmly situated as prose fiction), a sort of missing link, through which a larger story can be told within a much smaller narrative.

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