This short work has an interesting history. I taught a women’s memoir class in Kentucky for many years and had the opportunity to observe Appalachian women and listen to their stories. Later, a student at New Paltz told me a story about her Appalachian grandmother, a silent, strong woman. When they went to clear out her house after her death, they found that she had written poems on the insides of her wooden cabinet, which no one saw or knew about. No one knew she had this secret life as a writer!
That story haunted me for years. I tried writing it as a poem several times and wasn’t happy with the outcome. Then I did an exercise in a creative writing class, asking the students to do a freewrite based on the word “flood.” As I put pen to paper, I started seeing an Appalachian woman standing at the threshold of her home, thinking about the rising waters of a creek and river. I realized that she could be the figure of the secret poet.
Suddenly I found the form for this poem/work that I had been trying to write for years. That was the genesis of the short fiction or prose poem work–however, you’d like to classify it. I am working now in these hybrid forms–prose poem, micro-memoirs and essays, monologues, micro-fictions. The boundaries are getting very blurry. I usually start with an image or moment, object of memory, write in my journal, and then experiment with form and genre, often trying out works in both prose and poetry.