Forum / A non-advertizing, non-self/group/cause-promotional topic for debate:

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    Sam Rasnake
    Mar 01, 07:16pm

    Assume that only one may be true.

    To do it, and do it well ... poetry is more difficult to write than flash.

    To do it, and do it well ... flash is more difficult to write than poetry.

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    Ann Bogle
    Mar 01, 08:57pm

    "To do it well ... poetry is more difficult to write than flash," but if so, why have we not had more flash fiction writers?

    I just read this of Faulkner -- did he say? where did I see it quoted? -- a novelist is a failed short story writer; a short story writer is a failed poet.

    Flash is young, though not as young as its recent emergence might suggest. Kawabata wrote miniatures. A writer named Spencer Holst wrote very short stories in New York until his death in 2001:

    James Tate, Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Kim Chinquee, Dianne Williams, Lydia Davis -- these names and others emerge -- but a flash fiction list is short compared to any similar list in poetry. I wonder why more writers have not undertaken the fiction miniature intently, why some, a writer such as Russell Edson, have called it prose poetry, while others stake it as fiction.

    I don't know that I personally have written any successful flash fiction or poem -- though I hear that I have -- for me, a poem is harder to write well, but that may be only personal, in that enjambment is so difficult without specific training in it (I think), whereas paragraphs that may break anywhere (James Tate seems to have an eye on exactly where) are easier for me to navigate.

    Writers such as Meg Pokrass have raised the bar (in my opinion) on how much and how soon and how often something can take place in a very short story. It is not just a few hundred words; it is a complicated story.

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    Sam Rasnake
    Mar 01, 09:03pm

    Great comment, Ann. Edson is a good example here.

    I especially like James Tate's collection Lost River. A near perfect meeting of poetry and flash.

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    stephen hastings-king
    Mar 01, 10:13pm

    I think poetry is harder to write. That's why I don't write it. Or maybe I think poetry is harder because I don't write it.

    What I'm more sure about is that often it's hard to write anything well. Including posts in a forum.

    I'm not entirely sure I know or really care about the difference between flash and poetry. But I like to say there is one because I don't think myself a poet. I know a lot of poets and that is why I do not think of myself as one. They, for example, like more poetry and like that poetry more than I do.

    Personally, the option that flash seems to make available that interests me most is the activation and manipulation of negative (white) space. If you think about it that way, flash is more like poetry than other prose forms. But I don't call the curious little toys I make poems. I think they're different from them somehow.

    But that's also why I don't think of flash as either short stories but shorter and still less like novels but a lot shorter. When too many words are running around you can't play with space in the same way, I think. Or maybe I just don't know how to do it yet.

    I think that sentences in a flash context are more instructions than descriptions. So stories are like little conceptual art pieces except that it's more likely that something other than the piece itself will happen--there might be a room and voices or a situation and stuff moving from a to b to c and statements that refer to the piece in which there might be a room or voices and so on--whereas with older conceptual art pieces you're more likely to just encounter pieces that talk about themselves as pieces in a particular space.

    Actually, the longer I made that sentence, the more I erased that distinction for myself as well.

    I am going to stop writing before everything turns into everything else.

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    W.F. Lantry
    Mar 01, 10:43pm

    I have a feeling they are equally hard, but completely different. They have nothing in common. Well, except maybe that they're both made of words. And, of course, passion. Wait, maybe they *are* the same.

    But of course they're not. You're sitting at the dinner table, talking with your companions. You tell them about something that happened, or may have happened, or might happen.

    Or you sing them a song.



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    David Ackley
    Mar 02, 02:48am

    Poetry is more difficult, because, while I can imagine writing something like what Lydia Davis writes( though obviously vastly inferior) I can not begin to imagine writing something like what Yeats wrote. " He plays a game with which I am not familiar," to quote some sports figure whose name escapes me.

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    David Ackley
    Mar 02, 03:19am

    By the way, Ann, The Faulkner quote is from an interview he gave to the Paris Review and collected in the series WRITERS AT WORK.

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    Linda Simoni-Wastila
    Mar 02, 03:33am

    Interesting responses. I think both are difficult to write. Word choice dictates success in both. Concision and precision is how I think when writing poetry and small fiction (I don't care for the term 'flash' -- it connotes, to me at least, a certain story form with a surprise ending. It also is longer than I tend to write. But I digress...).

    But I find I use different parts of my writing head for fiction and poetry. In poems, you can wallow in the obtuse, the unusual lush word, the deconstruction of 'sentences'. But in fiction, I tend to write with economy and linearity.

    If I had to choose poetry or fiction, I'd likely choose poetry, not because I am good at it -- poetry is not my strength -- but because it is the most fun and indulgent writing, the most freeing. In April, I only write poetry, and I smile the entire month. But my soul is a fiction writer, so I grump about and worry my plots and characters the remaining 11 months.

    I don't know which is harder to write, but I do know which is harder to publish -- a good poem. Thanks for the great discussion. Peace...

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    James Lloyd Davis
    Mar 02, 05:31pm

    Poetry is often another language entirely, one of soft insinuation or ... like a net made of words tossed out to catch a school of metaphorical minnows, lacking the substance of solidity, but perfect for the task, which may be ... to reach expressions we can never achieve with plain speaking.

    I love poetry, often baffled by it, not really willing to try it, so I leave it to those who can.

    Flash fiction is something more linear, like a punch from a prizefighter, a jab, a hook, an uppercut ... or any combination thereof. It can be vague, but doesn't have to be. In a flash, you can span a century or tread lightly on the timelessness of a moment. I use it because I can. It fits my head. I'm not afraid of it. I can beat it.

    Poetry? Scares the bejeezus outta me. Just like a middleweight would never get in a ring with a lightweight. Neither one is better or worse than the other, just different. But lightweights? They are just too damned fast.

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    Christopher Allen
    Mar 02, 08:00pm

    I think anything is hard to do well unless no one has ever done it before. That's why swimmers must continue to swim faster and flash fiction writers have to reach for something more than the surprise at the end.

    Since poetry has been around much longer, to do it well one must swim a heck of a lot faster . . . or maybe just against the current . . . or maybe in a nice speedo.

    Final answer: A, Poetry.

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