Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 5, 2015

Looking Out, Looking In

“Maybe the surest way to know the self is not through looking in the mirror but going out for a walk.” – Mark Doty


I’ve been thinking about what is the poetry beyond the broken lines in verse novels. I love the muscle of narrative’s bright beginning, the arc to a climax, and reconciliation or fresh questions at the end. There’s something great about the shape of a beginning, middle, and end, going from A up to B and back down to C. In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forester distinguishes between story, giving the example of “the king died” and plot, which deepens and complicates into “the king died of grief.” Now there’s cause and effect, and emotion. It’s that element of feeling, which may be called lyric, which may bring the verse into narrative verse.

Of course feelings don’t mean gushing. Instead, it’s good to be on the lookout for the telling details that will lead to an inner life. One of poetry’s subversive powers is to ask us to slow down. I set my characters strolling, long looking, and perhaps finding a way inside.


  1. Simply beautiful. I like the possibilities of your last sentence – that you set your characters on a stroll to plumb themselves, experience their own revelations, or that you set out on a stroll accompanied by your characters, who slowly reveal themselves to you.

    • It is wonderful when the setting or character you started out with so roughly shows you possibilities. Thank you, Sarah.

  2. A walk sounds like just hte thing. What a lovely post.

    • Hearing some spring birds on the walks — or at least that’s what i’m telling myself those new sounds are. I think there will be mad screams all across New England and beyond when any signs of green appear.

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