Saturday, January 3, 2009

What Inspired Greyling Bay?

A couple of years ago William Haskins began a wonderful collaborative poetry project called Blue Rock over at Absolute Write, which developed into an amazing collection of poetry, people, and places. Haskins found his own inspiration for Blue Rock in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, a collection of obituaries for the residents of his fictional town.

While the individual poems in both anthologies are more than good enough to stand alone, they are at their best when experienced as part of a collection. When read together, the interaction between the poems reveal multiple layers of meaning and nuance which are not apparent in the single works; and the juxtaposition of so many different voices and stories create a compelling resonance and depth that haunts me even now.

I’ve played around with ideas for various collaborative projects for some time but I've struggled to find an appropriate form. I didn’t want to repeat the Blue Rock project by working with poetry, as good creative writing should focus on making something new and fresh. I wanted to engage with as many other writers as I could; and I wanted each piece to provide an intense, staccato burst of energy and surprise. And so I came to flash fiction.

I read a lot of flash fiction. I like its intensity; the quivering potential that it reveals; the way that it says so much by leaving so much unsaid. It is an immediate, urgent and unforgiving form which allows no room for error or self-indulgence; but when it’s done well it makes words sing on the page with a clarity that fascinates me.

And that's what makes flash fiction the perfect building-block for this particular collaborative work. By accumulating a collection of varying interrelated pieces here, I hope we can broaden both the ambition and the appeal of flash fiction, and produce something innovative. I'm well aware that this project could be a disaster: but there is a chance that it could end up as an inspiring collaborative work.

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