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

Jamaal May, Poet & Realist

Jamaal May Picture - McKennaIn poetry class my Junior year, we recited poems we found intriguing or moving in order to practice our oral interpretation skills and bring us closer to the work of other poets. Before I knew who Jamaal May was or heard he would be attending Douglas Anderson’s Writer’s Festival, I recited his piece “There are Birds Here,” a piece of his which is dedicated to Detroit. Previously, I read it as a jab to critics who tried to put symbolism and emphasis into every poem they read, but today, understanding who he is as a writer, I see it as him asking people not to sugarcoat what is real and true.

This piece connects to his other work, where he writes to show what he sees as true and does not attempt to hide it under any circumstance. In every piece he builds up cohesive images and ideas until the final sentence where he adds something impactful, something you didn’t expect when reading about a boy whacking fireflies with a stick. In poems like “Hum for the Hammer,” there is a more industrial focus that involves more tactile imagery like in the line, “May sandpaper be the rough hand that rubs you smooth,” and still captures this human feeling as naturally as his childhood and community-centered poems.

Upon reading more of Jamaal May’s work, I’ve also come to admire how he can bend a narrative into poetic format. As a writer who leans more towards the fiction genre, creating poems focused on single emotions or moments without full flourishing sentences and thoughts is extremely challenging. Yet May manages to pull off this poetic vibe even when there are long sentences, like in his piece “On Metal,” published through Gulf Coast Journal. Despite there being a whole narrative focus, there are still poetic elements, abstract ideas, a meaning that could only be provided through the poetic format he gives it.

Balancing between gritty textures and light or sometimes religious imagery, Jamaal creates statement pieces about the state of the world he grew up in and the one he lives in now, including both man, machine, and sometimes even God. His narrative pieces remind us as both writers and readers that there are no limitations in poetry and the poets that show us that are the ones that we should look forward to seeing again and again.

-McKenna Flanagan, Senior Art Editor