I've been quite taken with experimenting with genres outside my training in poetry lately, and am surprised at how well that other-writing is going. My essay "Of Blue Collars and Electrical Tape" appears in the latest issue of The Sequoya Review. An edited version of the essay is included in the last section of The Kentucky Vein, forthcoming from Punkin House Press. There are a handful of essays in that collection (forthcoming sometime in mid-2011, Punkin & I will let you know when!), and I found working in essay form to be very interesting. A little bit more sloppy than my poetry, maybe, since poems have to be far more distilled, the essays more closely resemble my stream of consciousness. They're more conversation-like, somehow. (Perhaps a bit like my blog posts.) Of course, all of my academic and craft training is in poetry, so if you find the essays terrible or insufferable, the blame is all mine.
I also just got word from Kara, the editor at Midnight Screaming, that my short-short story "A Hound That Does Not Hunt" has been accepted for the January issue. My first-ever fiction placement! It's around 1800 words, a creepy (I hope) little vignette about how close we are to our beloved pets...and how close they might still be to wild animals with the need to kill. As a lifelong Stephen King fan, and a regular consumer of the horror/terror/paranormal genre, I am absolutely *tickled* to have placed that little piece!
And so, I'm back to thinking about genre-breaking, and wondering how often we as writers take advantage of the different word-containers available to us. I know some of the writers I admire most (Molly Peacock, Robert Bly, Phil Deaver, Frederick Smock, and many others) dabble in a bit of this, a bit of that, whether they combine their poetry with creative nonfiction, fiction, translation, or some other type of writing, some other type of brain-bending around language. Occasionally I feel guilty for mucking about in not-poetry, as though I am cheating my genre of time and effort. But really, sometimes I need something different. Something to cleanse the palate. Not all stories can be told the same way...the way just because soup is food does not mean it can be eaten from the same plate or with a fork and knife like a ribeye.
I'm happy to have found editors willing to indulge my dabbling with different forms, willing to offer me a piece of their audience to try my hand on. I'm happy to have multiple arenas to toss my creative energy into, hoping something takes good shape and survives. And I hope other writers don't limit themselves to whatever original writer label they slapped onto themselves. There's a whole universe of forms out there. Test them. Test yourself.