9:23 a.m. — Atlanta
Hello everyone! I am back from a week at my uncle’s, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, spent knee-deep in family papers, one of which was my great-grandmother’s autopsy. Talk about feeling a little weird. At the same time, I was thinking, How can I make this a poem…
As I held and read letters written in the 1700/1800s and learned of life on the family plantation; as I discovered that all my ancestral lines have an eyebrow-raising amount of intermingling with light overtones of incest here and there; as I read the line written by my grandmother to her grandmother, in 1919, which says: “I hope your arm will be alright soon. Are your corsets still contrary?”; as I found that my great-grandfather, who was supposedly murdered for his paycheck, showed up in a census several years after the fact, I realised that we all have a wealth of poems in our family histories.
I would like you to try a genealogical poem. You can approach the exercise in a number of ways. One possibility is a list poem where you take one family line and list each ancestor with a comment for each. Or, write about one ancestor about whom you know a fair amount — make up what you don’t know. After all, you are not writing a biographical poem. Or, maybe you are. If you know anything about how ancestors came to be where they are, you might write about the journey. If you have an ancestor involved in an interesting bit of history, write a story poem. If you know a lot about an ancestor and the time in which they lived, you can try a last will and testament written by them. I read three fascinating wills this weekend.
As far as point of view, you can certainly use third person, but it might be interesting to write from a first person point of view, to become the ancestor and speak with the ancestor’s voice. This is also a possibility for the rare second person point of view. “You” should not appear in a poem unless you are writing to someone specific, addressing them. You might write to one of your ancestors about something you wish you could have spoken about with them.
As always, do post your poems and leave a link in the comments, or the poem, if you wish. I love reading what you write and miss it when I am gone for a week, or more. Also, if there is a past prompt you have been meaning to write to, remember that there is no such thing as late here.