A Bridge Between Genres

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Writer Lee-Ann Roripaugh

Writer’s festival my junior year I had the wonderful honor of meeting poet Lee-Ann Roripaugh. I not only respected her for her commentary on culture and identity, but I had always admired her for her unique form that her poetry takes, specifically in her novel Dandarians. Dandarians is a unique poetry novel in that if you open it to certain pages you may believe that you’ve bought a novel of very short stories. This form that Roripaugh plays with is considered hybrid writing. Though her writing reads much like poetry in some lines, and even breaks in places as if it was a poem, she often sets up a very vivid setting and sometimes characters throughout the pieces. Though not all her pieces play with this form, Roripaugh is very familiar with it. In her workshop, Cracks: hybrid/mixed genre writing, she said something that particularly stuck with me; “hybrid writing bridges the gap between fiction and poetry, it allows for the two forms to exist in one plane.”

For me, a chronically narrative poet, I viewed this as a safe haven of sorts. I love poetry, I love the language of poetry and with work I can create this language, but too often do I find the need to create a concrete place and characters, so much to the point that it begins to sound like fiction. When I read some of Roripaugh’s work along with the examples she brought to the workshop, I connected with the form almost immediately. Hybrid writing allows for a writer to write with all the fluidity and language of a poet, even make the same stylistic choices like line breaks sometimes, but also lets you flesh our characters more, lets you maybe explain more than a regular free-verse poem might. Though I never personally used this form after I connected with it, I think back to it often and think of the possibilities it would afford me if I do ever choose to play with it.

An example of this writing can be seen in Roripaugh’s poem entitled “Skywriting.” The outward appearance of this poem is a piece of short fiction with very short paragraphs. But, if you were to read it, it is scattered with beautiful poetic language like “sometimes she coils herself up into a neat, tight spiral of pin curl,/and then, for a moment, she’s a moon-green yoyo…” This poem perfectly exemplifies hybrid writing because it does have poetic language as seen above but it also can be read as a narrative of sorts, following the narrative of a caterpillar, of all things.

Hybrid writing is not only a new emerging form that is beginning to get more recognition as edging the boundaries between genre’s, but is also a useful and unique tool for writers to experiment with their writing.

-Zac Carter, Art Editor