Narrative Poetry – a short introduction by Kate Foley

Kate Foley is the author of the title poem in our first poetry collection, The Other Side of Sleep: Narrative Poems. Kate recently won the Second Light long poem award with this poem. In fact it was Kate’s work that inspired the book in the first place, so it seems only right to let her tell us a bit about her approach to narrative poetry.

Here we reproduce an extract from the introduction to her workshop Sing & Tell

Narrative is a word that covers everything from The Odyssey to Baa Baa Black Sheep . Narrative poetry has come to be synonymous with ‘long’ and in many people’s view, ‘boring’ but even Pound’s In a Station of the Metro is a long short story which because of its compression may be extended by our own imagination. There is no such thing as a poem that doesn’t tell a story. A poem spray painted on a wall, ‘found’ on the pavement or scattered on the page, will still from the resonance of one word against another, recount its meaning as a narrative.

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;

Petals on a wet black bough.

 Ezra Pound.

Many of us were reared in the honourable tradition of the Romantic poets who unabashed, set out to entertain with rattling good yarns or to instruct by musings on Grecian Urns, Nightingales, Lakeland landscapes  – and foreshadowing Douglas Adams – the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Today, although we leapfrog over the traditions of epic and elegy, we are aware of the perennial elements of narrative that bring our stories to life.

It took the computer Deep Thought 7 ½  million years to reach the admirably concise and poetic answer to the Meaning of Everything, which is, of course, the number 42. We hope to arrive, in a rather shorter time span, at the answer to the question of what makes a good story and how to sing as well as tell it – in other words, to make an extended poem.



Ezra Pound.