David Ly: With poetry, what do you think it can do in terms of telling a story that you don’t find prose can achieve?
Tess Liem: The first thing I thought was that it’s just the difference between saying “and then…” or “and this…” to imply that poetry may be less concerned with organizing things in linear time than prose; maybe poetry is more concerned with pointing one’s attention to moments, and accumulations or inventories, but I don’t think that’s fair to prose. I’ve actually been trying to revive my short story writing lately, and when I was asking my friend for advice about craft books, we actually came to the conclusion that I was not a very good story teller, but that that was OK. This also reminds me that my first workshop was for fiction and I had a habit of editing my stories by cutting out most of what I’d written initially, and breaking the lines until they were poems. So maybe it is that poems leave space, literally and figuratively, for stories to happen in a different way, maybe by mood rather than action.
- Tess Liem, in conversation with David Ly over at PRISM international. You can read the whole thing here.