No, you’re not mistaken, we have in fact crossed over into Friday and I am very late with this post. I see most of you have already checked in, so I’m very sorry for the delay. I was lying in bed, failing to sleep as ever, grappling with this horrible insomnia when I realised I’d forgotten to post something today.
Which is extra annoying as I’d planned to do something different this week, and this isn’t the best way to get started. Nonetheless, here we go. As you’ve no doubt deduced from the headline, I’ve decided to share a short story this week instead of a poem. This is because short stories are another of my passions, and in fact, of the two, is the elder — my first love, really. I also think there’s a lot of common ground with short stories and poetry, a lot of similar tools are used, and the same level of attention to detail, to craft and language, has to be employed.
Which brings me to ‘Rope’ by Joshua Harmon, who I was not at all surprised to see is also a poet. The story begins like this:
Our brother keeps a girl tied to a tree in the woods.
It’s an outstanding hook, a wonderful first sentence, and once it’s in you, it doesn’t let go. Its sparseness is all the more dramatic for its placement; the second sentence is an unwieldy thing, a full paragraph long on its own right. That second sentence doesn’t always work, at least not at the level the majority of this piece does – it’s overly long and sags a touch in the cluttered middle, but is still packed with detail and resonant rhythm, which is to say, the hallmark of poetry.
This is a deeply unsettling story about two sisters grappling with the unknown, with their own dark imaginings in a desolate setting on the edge of a forest — that great symbol of primal danger, of untamed wilds. You’re never quite sure how much of it is in their head, how much of it is real, and it’s a credit to Harmon that the suspense never lets up. Whenever there’s a risk of getting lost in the myriad other elements, the drama and tedium of humdrum life, he reels out the hook of that line about a girl tied to a tree in the woods, and it catches on the inside of your cheek, and he tightens the line and tightens the line and gradually brings you in.
To write great poetry, to write great stories, you first need to read them. In rare, beautiful cases, you get the best of both worlds at once.
This is one such case. Go and read it.