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Narrative Magazine: the PBS of literature

Still-life with Latin book, candles and antique statue

Looking for some good free reading? Check out Narrative Magazine—an online journal dedicated to great literature. The magazine publishes poems, short stories, nonfiction, fiction, six-word stories, novel excerpts and more. Narrative even pays its contributors and is free for anybody to read (although donations are greatly appreciated to maintain the Narrative mission).

I just finished reading Joseph Stroud’s poem “Provenance” about the winter he lived in Madrid and mourned his father. Everywhere he goes in the city, his grief follows. His pain is reflected in artwork, cobblestone streets, a Gypsy violin, even a bowl of tripe soup.

I love how the poem goes on and on with no stanza breaks, how it wraps around itself as the poet wanders the streets of Madrid and the depths of his love for his father. If you want to see how a great poem is put together, study this poem. Read it out loud. Allow the words to wrap around you, feel their weight on your tongue, in your heart.

Writing about strong emotions, particularly about the death of a parent, is a difficult task to do well. The key is to use specifics to evoke the emotions. Stroud is a master.

Great poetry transcends the individual poem and poet. Great poetry speaks to us at a level beyond words. It connects us to our feelings and lets us know that we are not alone.

Exercise: Find a poem that speaks to you as Stroud’s poem speaks to me and, using an experience from your own life, write a poem in the same format as the poem you admire. I’ll let you know how my poem turns out if you let me know how yours does!

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