Friday, November 27, 2009

147) writing a memorable opening line

the literary life 11/27/09

Some poems draw you in quickly while others develop slowly. In part, being familiar with an author's style prepares us for what to expect from his/her work. I personally like poems that capture me in some way right from the start--whether this is because of the language, tone, or content of the line--it doesn't matter. As a reader, I look for writers that build a connection right away. Here are some opening lines from poems that have caught my attention recently:

Traveling through the dark I found a deer... William Stafford

I took out my knife and held her head... Kim Addonizio

She taught theater, so we gathered/in the theater... Stephen Dunn

Only the guilty ask why... Philip Schultz

the cockroach crouched... Charles Bukowski

Crisp scent of white narcissus... Margaret Atwood

Imagine you wake up/with a second chance... Rita Dove

To fight aloud, is very brave... Emily Dickinson

Dear Dick: In order to Xerox your book I had to break/the spine... Jane Hirshfield

Nothing here. Rock and fried earth... Jack Gilbert

You are a war novel, entirely lacking/female characters... Cate Marvin

My favorite day is Sunday... Li-Young Lee

The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat... T.S. Eliot

I stand with standing stones... Theodore Roethke

The opening of a poem, so critical. An invitation, a promise, a hope. A pulse of music or dragon fire. The opening of a poem can be cryptic or reassuring. It might baffle us. Along the way, the poem might dip into wordplays, humorous turns, and eccentricities. But I need the poems I read to take me somewhere serious. Somewhere accoustically green. A mature landing, sensually gray.

No comments:

Post a Comment