9:15 am, Tuesday — Atlanta
Conversation, or dialogue, can enliven, set the mood, add drama, create tension in poems as well as prose. We will look at a couple of different types of dialogue poems over the next two or three Tuesdays. Dialogue in poetry has a tradition going back hundreds of years.
For today’s exercise, compile a list of completely different conflict situations (gentle, or profound); in each situation two people are going to have a dialogue.
For each pair, list: Who? When? Where? Why? What?
Examples: WHO 1? WHO 2? WHERE? WHEN? SITUATION?
Crooked gas station attendant. Gas station customer. Deserted country road. High noon. Gas station attendant hopes to cheat customer.
Old man. His friend. City park. Morning. Old man is dying.
Jack. Jill. Town. Beautiful morning. Jack wants to go up the hill.
Ventriloquist. Midget pretending to be dummy. Backstage. Just before performance. Dummy hates this.
Pick a couple and draft dialogue poems made up exclusively of title plus talk.
Two speakers only!
Length: at least as long as the below poems. Write at least five exchanges: each speaker must speak at least five times.
Hint: Start in medias res: in the middle of things. No hello!
CONOCO SAM by Jim Heynan
Fill it up, regular.
Sure thing. My eyes are bad.
Could I fill my canteen?
Sure thing. Got maybe a year of
Windshield’s pretty bad, isn’t it?
Yep. Good thing cows don’t fly–
but I could see them.
Looks like rain.
Sure does. Feels like it too.
You didn’t give me enough change.
Damn! Can’t see a thing any more.
Who’s who here? How are they different–these two first persons. What clues are there on where and when the poem takes place? How does the writer establish place? Mood? Tone?
TWO FRIENDS by David Ignatow
I have something to tell you.
I’m sorry to hear.
I’m growing old.
It is, I thought you should know.
Of course and I’m sorry. Keep in touch.
I will and you too.
And let me know what’s new.
Certainly, though it can’t be much.
And stay well.
And you too.
And go slow.
And you too.
How do we keep track of who’s speaking? Who is speaking? Where? Why do you think so? What do you read between the lines?
Based on an exercise by James Penha.
Here is a link to a good article on dialogue poems and how to write them, if they take your fancy and you wish more detail.
I will see you Thursday for our continuing conversation on nouns and other parts of speech.
Illustrations courtesy of Microsoft.