A Bridge Between Genres


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

A Thin Line between Poetry & Fiction

kiara-september-blog-post-pictureÈlan Literary Magazine is celebrating its 30th year Anniversary. In honor of the evolution of our published writing, our editorial staff is appreciating the techniques and stylistic choices of those that have inspired them. 

I am a writer that is constantly battling whether I see myself as a fiction writer or as a poet. I think that I do well in both aspects but there always seems to be the need to categorize myself. Recently I have found that both worlds are attainable through hybrid writing. I am really inspired by writers such as Jamaal May and Lee Ann Roripaugh. These are artists who tell their poetry through a narrative lens. One of my favorite pieces by Jamaal May is, “How to Get Your Gun Safely out of Your Mouth”.

The piece is a prose poem in which the examination of the retaining the will to live, to take a moment and breath. The poem takes you through a series of moments, and lists out the ideas to get the reader to take their time and consider the options to move forward. May uses second person perspective to his advantage in the poem, as he’s talking to the “you”, but he is also speaking of himself in the piece. I recently, tried to do this in my own poetry examining a similar pool of thought, and I wasn’t as successful with my endeavors, but I want to be able to speak to the reader and for myself.

Lee Ann Roripaugh, is able to take on a more personal approach and even creates an almost, folktale, storyteller vibe. The voices in her poem seem wise and the structure of her poems mimic this. The poetic elements tangle with that natural and ethereal voice which makes me feel that her own story is something I can always take to heart.

I believe I am drawn to prose poetry and poems that feel like stories because of their relatability aspect. Story telling is something all people have exposure to, and it makes a poem seem more accessible, and the visual style of a prose poem or hybrid piece always seems to be a journey. I am always interested in how visual structure can change the perspective. A reader can see the piece and dive in, and afterwards, feel in their chest that what they experienced was unique.


How to Get Your Guns Safely Out of Your Mouth by Jamaal May

Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea,

clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains. Not before the end of this

song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page or a woman

apologizes for dialing the wrong man again—not before you learn her

name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret

catching in your throat—Are you done? Go ahead and squeeze after

the hinges are reinforced on all doors, the house secure from storm or

intruder, your laces tied, this commercial break over, drywall taped,

spackled, painted—a nail driven, a painting hung and adjusted—

there is still so much to adjust, arrange, there is still time—and you

write your letter, correct every letter,

scrawl the signature so swift and

crooked it becomes the name of another—relax the

jaw that holds the barrel in place,

remove gun, point to heaven, and squeeze until the clip

is empty like the chamber.

-Kiara Ivey, Senior Layout & Design Editor