It just so happens that most of the poems I've written thus far are set in the 18th and early 19th centuries. I know that will change: I've already got pieces dated 1918 and 1939; I've got plans for pieces in the voices of Frick, Carnegie, and Dickens; an alcoholic Italian-immigrant miner who loves Dante; a 1950s high school football star from Dunbar, etc., etc. This project will take me years, I'm afraid. I will try not to bore you too much with it, but I may not be able to help myself.
Friday, May 20, 2011
As I might have mentioned, these western Pennsylvania poems I'm writing seem to be accruing into a "history" of the Chestnut Ridge region of Westmoreland and Fayette counties. History is in quotation marks because this is me writing, and I just can't help framing, embroidering, reorganizing, intensifying, inventing, and putting words into people's mouths. But I am, among other activities, paying a great deal of attention to shifting styles of language expression. People in 1744 don't sound like people in 1808. At the same time I've found myself inserting these expressions into various poetic forms. Some of the poems I've written are free verse; some are not. The one I've titled "Wartime Prosperity, 1744," is, of all things, an ironic bill of sale in the form of a haiku. Most recently I've finished "Incident at Jacob's Creek, 1976," a poem that started out as a sestina in the voice of a crabby 12-year-old girl and then ended up as free verse because the sestina made her sound too syntactically controlled--not a 12-year-old characteristic. "Incident at Jacob's Creek" will be a repetitive title. I've already written another one dated 1755, in the voice of a mother terrified for her children; and I have a third percolating in my head, dated 1775, in the voice of a prissy young itinerant minister.