Intro to Epic Poetry

Epic poetry is a singular genre that is seldom used in the modern popular poetry canon. These pieces are narrative poems, usually quite long, that tell the story of an extraordinary person and a great battle or struggle that they endured. These poems feature fantastic components like monsters, magic, gods, and superhuman protagonists, though they frequently purport to be true stories about a founding figure in a given culture or group.

Perhaps the most well-known example of epic poetry is Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the stories of the Trojan War and the long journey home of a Greek general, respectively. The Odyssey is a particularly good example; Odysseus, its main character, is an archetypical hero of an epic poem. He possesses superhuman virtue, bravery, cunning, duty, and piety. He is meant to embody many of the best values that Greeks saw in their culture. This is a common trait among epic heroes. One of the most interesting parts of reading epic poetry, for me, is the information that readers can glean about the culture that is indirectly profiled through the story. In using this genre, I will likely be focusing heavily on this unique and nuanced relationship with the truth; epic poems are generally not true stories and contain outright falsehoods and made-up scenarios, but they are meant to reflect truths about a given culture or people—or humanity as a whole.

In the story, Odysseus faces a number of challenges that test him and his crew in different ways, forcing him to make sacrifices and fight for survival on his way back to his wife and children. Long journeys and dangerous battles are characteristic elements of epic poetry. They serve not only to provide dramatic and entertaining reading but to reveal the protagonists’ human traits and provide a link to the audience. Readers can look at epic poems and see elements of their own lives and struggles through the more unrealistic elements of the plots. This is the goal I am aiming for in writing epic poetry.

Introduction to Short Fiction

Short fiction is a genre that has interested me casually since middle school, when we had to read a few of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories. I was struck by how complex a story Poe was able to tell in such a small amount of pages. This is one of the principal ways that a good short story writer uses their talent. The challenge of writing a short story is bringing readers to the emotional highs and lows achieved in any form of art with a limited number of words. Characters can’t have their backstories explained in full depth. Relationships can’t be illustrated with dozens of dialogues and stories.

Short fiction does offer some unique opportunities as a writer; the genre has a flexibility that isn’t enjoyed by essayists, novelists, or even filmmakers. The genre’s brevity can be its strength. The story “Are We Not Men?” by T. C. Boyle explores a science fiction scenario where animals and people can have their DNA edited. The concept is explored only as far as it is important for the story. The characters are outlined and then thrown together in expressive, minimal scenes that form a compelling piece of writing. “The Presentation on Egypt” by Camille Bordas is another good example that takes a similar approach. Two or three characters are explored mostly through their interactions and thoughts in the moment of the narrative. Backstory and flashbacks are absent. Short stories are immediate. For the most part, they tell their stories through expressive moments. This is my favorite thing about the genre. When reading one of these pieces, it feels like spending time with the characters rather than hearing someone tell a story about them. It’s more intimate, human, and real.

The genre’s flexibility also allows for some creative literary use of language. Quotation marks and other punctuation can be left out or overused. Sentences don’t always carry a subject and a predicate. These features would no doubt be tiresome were they to last for an entire novel, but in a short story, they serve to change the way the reader processes the story without sentencing them to a long and potentially confusing read.

Ahoy!

My name is Riley. I’m a junior at the University studying history and political science. And now writing. I was born in Chicago, and I live with my parents and my younger sister in a suburb bordering the city when I’m not here.

Outside of basic personal info, I love music, and my headphones are no doubt among my most treasured possessions. I listen to a huge range of music but I’m particularly drawn to indie rock and alt electronic artists. I love live music and I go to concerts whenever I get the chance. I’m also super into chess. I’m definitely someone who’s at their best when immersed in some obsession or another, and chess has been my focus for the last few months. I also love 2D art and spent a lot of long days at the Art Institute this summer.

My interest in writing probably stems from an early interest in reading. I have really enjoyed writing for a long time; there’s no challenge like finding the right word or phrase to capture your thoughts perfectly. I love the fact that I can finish a piece of writing, look at it, and feel like I accomplished something—like my work was worthwhile. This is a feeling I rarely get with any other work. This made me want to expand my writing skills and learn as much as I could from other writers, so I’ve been taking classes at the University and now I’m part of the MIW. I’m excited to meet everyone else in the program and read your writing!

I’ve included a picture of me with some buds and some pictures I took at Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin, my favorite place I went this summer.