Writing the Urban Sketch | Guest Post by Ian Chandler - Writer's Digest

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:

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.

richard_adams_watership_down_quotes_a_rabbit_has_two_ears_a_rabbit_has_two_eyes_two_nostrils_they_ought_to_be_together_not_fighting

10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.

plot_twist_story_prompts_fight_or_flight_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.

Garfield

Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.

Pennington_10:21

The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a cleaning poem.