First Friends: Memory as construction



First Friends is a poem which makes use of the ‘construction of memory’ technique. It’s a little rough around the edges, but an interesting piece. (Most of my ‘best’ poems are kept for submission, and so cannot be published here.)

This poem is made of composite memories merged into single narrative. The sentiments  – the deep affection, the searing pain, the learnings about friendship – are all rooted in fact, as are most of the details from which they arise. This supplies a rich pool of authentic details with which to engage the reader.

Alongside other techniques, the speaker’s willingness to be seen in a negative light lends to the credibility of the poem as fact. I never really was any girl’s bodyguard; but there was a bigger truth, worthy of full examination, bigger than my ego (than the risk of reader projection, the perpetuation of stereotypes, and anyway the ‘I’ in my poems is very rarely me.)

Narrative as poetic device yields two main possibilities the writer must choose from at the point of ‘abandoning the poem’.

One, resisting the urge to tie things up too neatly: the untied encourages the reader to try and make a bow. Their struggles to remedy its messiness, to make it neat and symmetrical, is what makes the poem an ongoing dialogue. Through this reflection the reader is rewarded with a deeper experience. Epiphany – to use a lately derided word.

Circling back to the beginning, for example, can provide clarity as to how far the poem has advanced us philosophically or emotionally – what did we gain? It might provide a stencil of insight onto which the reader imposes their experience. How does it line up? What more is there to learn here? The differences are as important as the similarities.

Perhaps there is a third way, though, somewhere between the two. In the poem, there is a progression from possessiveness, to aggression, to a suggestion of continued violence beyond the last line. Yet, the violence is expressed as a sort of product of bereavement; which in turn suggests that if the arc can rise upwards towards the poem’s ending, it might subside again beyond it.

What do you think?  What’s your take on the poem? I’ve sent it out to make a living – I guess its interpretation really belongs to you now.

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