Sunday, October 18, 2009

from Barry Graham

Fuck flash fiction. It doesn’t exist. Get it out of your head. As writers, it’s easy for us to define ourselves and our writing by genre. I’m a poet. I’m a fiction writer. I write prose poems. There is nothing more detrimental to your writing then classifying, defining, limiting yourself and your perception of what writing is, then to convince yourself that you are one of these things. Put your love and hatred and passion and shame down on paper first (or your word processor, this is 2009 after all), then let the words tell you what they want to be, let them define themselves, instead of you forcing them into a category. What is a poem? What is a flash fiction? And who are you as their creator? Defining yourself by genre and forcing your writing to match that diluted self perception is limiting your potential and your creativity. Just write great words and let them be what they want to be. What do you want to be?

Bio: Barry Graham teaches writing at Rutgers and wrote The National Virginity Pledge (Another Sky Press). Look for him online at

Read "The Same Story" in FRiGG

Read "Blackhorse" in LITnIMAGE

Read "Apollo" in LITnIMAGE


  1. "Just write great words and let them be what they want to be." Amen.

  2. Agreed. Form follows function. Strunk it to death and see what's left. Tell Vesterman I said hi.

  3. This is helpful and wise. You have an impressive beard.

  4. yeah, i guess. i'm pretty comfortable limiting myself. i mean, i know i'm going to write really short when i write really short. maybe it ends up screwing my potential, entirely plausible. but that seems ok to me. in any case, the passion of your statement kicks ass.

  5. Thanks Joe, I was a little shy to pipe in, but I personally feel liberated by knowing I'm not a poet. That said, as a strategy against the marginalization of new forms and the tyranny of convention, then by all means fuck flash.

  6. Shit Barry always keeps it real.

    I get his point. Honestly, labels are simultaneously useful and really stupid. I mean...flash, micro, nano, etc. Whatever. We use them because it makes it easy to talk about, but I think it's worth noting that—as often as possible—the labels should come after the piece is written, not before.

  7. joe: yeah, i agree, once a writer has reached a certain "level" they may feel comfortable within certain genres, of course. this comment was geared to cw students, and i've seen this happen to people so many times, where they refuse to consider themselves or their writing outside of a certain genre because they're attached to the idea "i'm a poet" so they force their writing to become poem when it may not be be.

    i wrote very shitty poetry for 10 years before i realized i'm not a poet. if i had this advice back then i may have a novel or two published by now.