The Conflict of Writing Beautifully and Brutally

Brit Graham

Recently I’m fixed in the mire between an uncertain creature which plants itself firmly in the realm of creative non-fiction and an unruly piece which tosses its head toward full-throttled, all out verse. An ungainly things lobbing itself into every chipped wooden door frame and jabbing its uncoordinated girth into the edges of glass tables, threatening to impale itself in order to avoid my dry eyed stare. This cumbersome beast lumbers about in place of my swift and brutal fragmented shards of poetry.

The two abstracts perch at opposite ends of the spectrum. Tying them together is like drowning a cat. It doesn’t happen often. Nor does one relatively return unscathed from such encounters. Nor are all things welcomed. Non-fiction should be simple–in theory. You have all your material tossing back shots in the back of your greasy cranium. Bereft without discipline they succumb to creep-crawl spiral of loathing.

The writing. She’s not enough to be sleek and gilded like some long legged gazelle at the edge of a undulating valley of grass rippling in the gentle sun-mottled breeze. No. She needs to have teeth. A little bit of crunch satisfying the itch we can’t quite scathe. Fact is rarely beautiful. The truth hardly unfolds like the pink origami crane your fourth grade best friend diligently creased for you every eighth period. The hand model’s appendage cracks, bone protrudes like a whale breaching the surface of flesh. The ripples, stunning in a certain slant of light, but no matter how beautiful, the wound still aches rips raw decade later.

In this tangled bronze thread of narrative it’s difficult if improbable to enter the spearing shards of fragment my writing has so heavily relied upon. It is difficult to write the benign sentence. The sort that carries brown boxed cargo, containing dusty facts the reader requires in order to make the leap of association needed in order to throw their pitter-patter hearts over the blinding crags of self-pity come chapter twenty-two.

It is difficult, unwieldly for my poetry-trained brain to unhinge from the short and succinct to flush out the full rack of a sentence hiding in this particular copse of wood. Heavy-footed, he does not bend easily to the flutter or breath and brevity. A proper narrative requires order and russet-rutted risk and canary-tinged reward. One must bear down, grind one’s molars together, and drop the beast in order to dissect its steaming inner workings.

It takes a different breed of finesse to shape and deepen those pivotal moments. Honing their bark to the same sharp white-silence retort as the barrel of a sniper rifle in verse. Swift as a soot-dusted memory by line three. Filling the spaces between. That’s the hard part. For it all snow blitzing across old black and white television set, the buzz of a fly beating against the screen door, the smack of the frame batting against the house in a gale. These unnecessary everyday things are required in a piece of fiction, a large piece. Spanning several thousands of words. Grains of sand in a jar, snow buzzing against the back drop. The need for a back drop at all infuriates.

The poet relies on the delicate path, carved by the chipped hooves of mule deer, the poet capable of spotting its black rip through the earth despite the summer’s cascading grasses pitching high over it. These are the short cuts, these are the jumps from line to lone-bitten line, relying on the razor sharp proper associations for their reader to make that leap over the live-wire.

Remain diligent, creep down the path sideways, if you must, gain a little grit, perhaps some dust. Settle alongside her as if you’d been there all along.


Photo of poet Brit GrahamFor now Brit Graham traverses the tundra that is South Dakota, while tripping over things while stargazing in the all too brief summer months. She is the crux of an ongoing love affair between the Pacific and Atlantic. She managed to pry an MFA in Poetry from the grasp of Converse College. You can read her poetry things in publications like Devilfish Review, The Night Owl, RealSouth Magazine, and The OWL.