As I settle into these years of new maturity, I find charm in poems. My ability to interpret poetry has improvement and in turn I have engaged in the writing of poems, as well.
Poems are very personal. I see most poetry as snippets of experience, thought and person journey. It is a genre that allows the reader and writer to connect intimately with one another. There are a lot of great Poets out there.
Yet, there are some poems unique in actually telling a story through their verses and rhymes. These poems are long and have common story writing traits such as movement, plot and character, weaving fiction and verse.
The oldest works come from the ancients, among the Greeks and Romans but they were not exactly considered short. Most of them were very long and complex and some were the basis for ancient theatrical productions.
Homer wrote the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” somewhere around eight centuries before Christ. They were tales of Achilles and Odysseus, in and after the Trojan War.
Approximately, seventy years before the birth of Jesus came the works of Virgil, who also used the city of Troy as a setting for his “Aeneid.”
Another old poem to weave a fictional tale written by an unknown Anglo-Saxon was “Beowulf.” Historians believe it was written somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries. This poem has intrigued horror enthusiasts for many years. They marveled at the spine tingling plot swimming so close to honor and loyalty of the medieval ages while deliberating that monsters have mothers.
“The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge was written in 1798. It was a tale told by an old fisherman to a young man, who endured an experience parallel to a modern horror movie. His journey began with his mates on an ordinary ocean bound to an ordinary port and shifted as the ship endured a terrifying storm and later floated into a frozen wasteland reminiscent of the Antarctica. The poor fellow suffered superstition, starvation and a ghost ship. He was the only survivor.
The Scottish Lord George Gordon Byron used his travels throughout Southern Europe and his risky political views as the basis of his poem “Childe Harold.” The poem was first written in 1812 and Byron added to it a few times, completing it in 1818.
Edgar Allen Poe wrote “The Raven” in 1845. It was a story of mourning and sorrow, of love lost to death, and the interaction between the narrator and the bird that drove the man into further madness.
“The Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti in 1862 was the most reflective of the writer’s time. The poem introduced the reader to two sisters, one who was seduced by the sinister fruit of the goblins, and the other who resisted saving herself and her sister. This was in a time when women only had two choices before them as adults; wives or prostitutes. There was no in-between.
The genre of poetry is as complex as writing fiction. There are meter and rhyme schemes, and a variety of styles to study. The historical values of these poems are immense, but most of all they are great stories.
These examples are only the beginning. Scholars have preserved works from Egypt, India and Sumer. These are poetic tales about gods and kings, giants and heroines.
Yet, it would seem that these poetic tales were the beginning of how to tell a great short story.