“Take a deep breath, and read some prose you’ve written until that breath naturally runs out. Let that determine your line length for the piece. How long a line is it? Arrange your ‘breath lines’ on the field of the page.”
-Kim Addonizio, “Ordinary Genius”
I find these instructions kind of confusing. Am I supposed to turn my prose into a poem? I decided that even if that’s what Ms. Addonizio means, I am not showing you any prose. There is a reason I’m writing poetry. Instead, I read some prose I wrote a long time ago and marked the breath spot. I will then translate that length to the lines in New World Symphony, the poem I’ve been revamping this week. Be warned, I have a decently high lung capacity, so the lines are going to be really long.
After translating the poem to match my breath (and taking a few artistic liberties) I really like how it turned out. Also, I was forced to think about punctuation, which I always need help with in poetry.
New World Symphony
Let the goosebumps rise on the back of your neck, terror shiver down your spine, the crash of cymbals, tremolo of strings. Listen to the sound of
Trumpets wailing at the death of babes caught sleeping in the storm. Timpani poundsthe marching feet: People’s Liberation Army hunting
The whisper of unwanted children to unwanted mothers, soft melody hiding in their voices; the beat kept by swaying hips of
prostitutes, strippers, and children.
The fermata over rest of Americans in bed: unafraid, unscarred, opinionated directors of the symphony.