Genre

I’m republishing a series of pieces that I wrote for the now-defunct Juniper Bends Author Collective. Since I can safely assume that none of my readers are big enough fans to take issue with this–much less to notice–I have few qualms about this course of action.

The joke goes that genre only exists so that you know where to find a particular piece in a bookstore. Now the nonfiction section leaps spasmodically from memoir to historical biography to cultural theory. Fiction includes flash, meta, stories, novellas, novels, and epics. And let’s not even get started on poetry (lyric essays, political anthologies, translations, oh my).

Here’s the question: as amateur (read: non-contracted) writers, why are we so obsessed with categorizing our own work? There are many journals that accept multi-genre pieces, or even seek them out. Authors publish multi-genre books (sometimes with friends); lyrical novels are a thing; David Rakoff wrote a novel in (rhyming) verse; Anne Carson’s brilliant Autobiography of Red is a classic piece of hybrid literature. And no one cares what they are since they’re crisp, polished, and satisfying.

Whenever I write, I find myself compulsively worried as I close in on a piece: but is it a poem? Is it flash-nonfiction? How will the bookstore know where to put my collected works?

Then I shake myself and ask the question above: who cares? 

Maybe one day I’ll have to concern myself with genre, but for now, I’ll just shut up and write.

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2 thoughts on “Genre

  1. Prose poetry ftw! But practically we’re limited by genre when it comes to grad school, grants, awards, and the like. I think you must first understand the art of prose & poetry separately before attempting to merge them, but that is all.

    1. I totally dig it Katherine. I just hesitate to enforce my own ideas of “understanding” prose or poetry when other folks have such variant styles and approaches. This is why I didn’t look into MFA programs though! xo

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