Writing the Urban Sketch

Author:
Publish date:

Earlier this month, Daniel Roessler shared a three-part series on nature and poetry. I'm hoping to continue sharing both guest posts on various topics on Thursdays (missed last week because of illness and deadlines). If you have an idea, send it my way at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com, and we'll work to flesh it out.

This guest post comes from Ian Chandler, who was a Top 25 Poet in the 2013 April PAD Challenge (click here to read an interview).

******

Greetings, poets! Robert has been kind enough to give me a guest post on this wonderful blog, so I'll do my best not to mess it up. I'm writing on one of my favorite aspects of poetry (and all writing, for that matter): the urban sketch.

I first learned about the concept while studying Arthur Morrison’s book A Child of the Jago, which tells the tale of a London slum in the 1890s. I didn't care so much for the book, but I came across a unique connection between the text and Japanese art. Morrison had a special fondness for a woodcutting technique called ukiyo-e. It depicted mostly city life, which eventually gave way to the modern urban sketch. At its core, the urban sketch is taking a vignette of or situation in daily urban life and using it as the basis for a written work.

While it may seem like a widely used (and even obvious) concept, deliberate urban sketching provides some unique perspectives to all poets. For those who already focus on modern life, you'll get a defined sense of place using the technique. For those who don't, you'll discover a litany of marvelous things about everyday life.

Urbanity as Action
A great example is Anthony Hecht's masterful "Third Avenue in Sunlight," where he ends with the cutting quatrain:

Daily the prowling sunlight whets its knife
Along the sidewalk. We almost never meet.
In the Rembrandt dark he lifts his amber life.
My bar is somewhat further down the street.

Throughout the poem, Hecht weaves a narrative in between descriptions of the city and places the action in urbanity itself. The closer is an intense picture of the affected view of the titular avenue that truly clinches.

Nature of the City
For another example, take the appropriately titled "City Elegies" by Robert Pinsky:

All day all over the city every person
Wanders a different city, sealed intact
And haunted as the abandoned subway stations
Under the city. Where is my alley doorway?

This part in particular centers on the nature of the city itself rather than what is within it, and it does so tastefully.

Culture of the City
Lastly, a small self-plug for good measure. I used urban sketching in "tuesday," which highlights millennial culture and focuses on small things some people might not see:

wet chainlink benchbacks
that are wooden and resolute
and my soy latte
a sketch of the counter with a found pen

The next time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard/screen), try using the urban sketch. Besides being a whole lot of fun, it's a good way to train your mind. Who knows––that parked motorcycle next to a campus bookstore and an ant-line of cars on Main Street might be the stars of your next poem.

******

Ian Chandler

Ian Chandler

Ian Chandler is a poet and freelance writer based in Kent, Ohio. He is currently attending Kent State University studying English. He has been awarded the 2014 Malone Writers Prize in Poetry, and he has been published three times in A Celebration of Young Poets.

He also reviews albums for Surviving the Golden Age. Other hobbies of his include coffeemaking, cardistry, and music.

Read more at his blog: http://ianchandler.wordpress.com.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

new_agent_alert_tasneem_motala_the_rights_factory

New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Miller_1:19

Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.