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by Meaghan Igel | LIT LIFE

Michigan Poet Zooms in to Highlight Imagery

a painter or a film director. “I think a lot about cinematography


when I write,” Fanning said. He defines micro-imagery, a word and a

concept of his own invention, as the poetic equivalent of a zooming-in camera, narrow- ing the reader’s scope from a wide-angle shot to a more defined view of the subject matter. “That’s what imagery is … turning the

reader’s eye toward something,” Fanning said. “Imagery is what gives the poem emo- tional complexity; it allows the reader into the experience of the poem.” Fanning underlines the importance of

visual imagery and the practice of think- ing like a cinematographer in one’s poetry by drawing the reader’s eye to details that become a larger central metaphor or idea, which are comparable to a wide-angle shot. “People can write any poem that they

want to write; whether they’re writing a poem about their grandmother or fly fishing or a pinecone, the subject doesn’t matter,” Fanning said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about as long as you can train the reader’s eye on something and you can bring the reader closer to the poem and closer to you.”

HEN IT COMES TO WRITING effective poetic imagery, Michigan poet Robert Fanning chooses to think not like a writer, per se, but more like

Fanning notes that writers in general

and poets specifically usually concentrate on the musicality of a specific piece and the language intricately woven through it. While he recognizes the auditory importance of poetry, Fanning maintains that visual im- agery – and, in fact, any sensory imagery at all – is crucial to writing a relatable, powerful poem. In this regard, he cites John Keats as a good example of a poet who can “give a really wide-angle shot and then zoom in on things.” “My favorite poems are the ones that

are tactile and physical and make you feel like you’re there,” Fanning said. “That’s what I tell my students … put the reader there! Whether they’re writing a short story or a poem, I want them to give the reader an experience. And when we think of writing poems that give the reader an experience, it’s because of sensory detail.” Zachary Tomaszewski of Literary Life

bookstore, who coordinated the event with Fanning, agrees that well-written and deftly articulated imagery is key. “[In micro-images,] people in different

geographic locations and different cultures can pick out something to identify with,” said Tomaszewski, a writer of poetry himself. He believes that by using micro-imagery,

writers can find a way to circumvent the ab- stract nature of creative writing by inviting the reader into the piece with specific details.

Robert Fanning

THROUGH THE LENS: “MICRO-IMAGERY” IN POEMS Literary Life Bookstore, Grand Rapids Aug. 7, 3-5 p.m. (with public reading immediately following) $30,, (616) 458-8418

“A poet can convey universal ideas by

focusing on particulars,” said Tomaszewski, summing up the essence of the workshop. “Every minute detail has a macroscopic ef- fect to the reader.” n

Other Literary Events | by Meaghan Igel

Making Your Memoir Memorable Kent District Library – Krause Memorial Branch FREE!

Aug. 13, 10:30 a.m., (616) 784-2007

If you think you’re interesting enough to be able to write your life into a bestselling memoir, then this event is for you. Author Bob Tarte, Grand Rapids native and accidental bird aficionado, has been around the block a few times with humorous memoirs about his pets like Enslaved by


Ducks, Fowl Weather and his newest work, The Funnel of Happiness. In this informative session, Tarte will share his own publishing adventures and tell you just what agents and publishers are looking for in a memoir.

Bonnie Jo Campbell Grand Rapids Public Library – Main Branch FREE!

Aug. 22, 7 p.m., (616) 988-5400

Bonnie Jo Campbell is an author who embodies “write what you know.” Having grown up in rural southwestern Michigan, she uses that setting as a backdrop for her award-winning stories. It must be working, because Once Upon a River, a modern-day Huck Finn novel, earned her a 2011 Guggenheim fellow position. Hear Bonnie Jo Campbell read from and discuss Once Upon a River and the rural Michigan experience that shaped her stories.



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