On Writing Outside of Tone

The assignment: Draft a poem outside your normal tone.

So far, I have come up with three drafts.  I usually write on the more serious, exploratory side, so I’ve been trying to imbue a sense of humor, or dark humor in response to this assignment.  I would love to be able to write poems like Tony Hoagland or Dean Young or Billy Collins: filled with a striking insight and humorous tone.  So I’m attempting to write one.

I think, of the three drafts, two have been only slightly outside my normal tone.  Which I don’t really know how to describe right now.  I said serious.  By exploratory I meant seeking.  Seeking place, definition, the self.  Sometimes I think it’s a little didactic, and I try to revise with an eye toward reducing that quality.  People don’t want to read it.

I have written poems with a humorous tone before.  They tend more toward light verse (think Ogden Nash) than other types of humor.  Writing outside of habitual tone is difficult, though.  It’s like thinking different, and I think I have more work to do to get there.

Eric

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