We've talked about this several times over the course of the term, but since it came up again in Friday's class, I thought it might be worth making a prompt out of the idea of fragmentation and linking.
At the heart of this technique is the notion that what we're trying to say in a poem doesn't have to be accomplished in one continuous train of thought. Much like the way in which line and stanza breaks can create a necessary pause or add emphasis, breaking your poem into discreet sections can give you the room to make dramatic shifts in perspective or characterization or let a particularly resonant idea ring out in your readers minds. This technique is most effective when the connection between the fragments isn't explicitly clear (leaving it to your reader to bridge those gaps) or if you choose to work around a topic in an abstract fashion, considering different facets of the idea at hand with each section.
One well-known poem written in this form is Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird":
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
IAmong twenty snowy mountains,The only moving thingWas the eye of the blackbird.
III was of three minds,Like a treeIn which there are three blackbirds.
IIIThe blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.It was a small part of the pantomime.
IVA man and a womanAre one.A man and a woman and a blackbirdAre one.
VI do not know which to prefer,The beauty of inflectionsOr the beauty of innuendoes,The blackbird whistlingOr just after.
VIIcicles filled the long windowWith barbaric glass.The shadow of the blackbirdCrossed it, to and fro.The moodTraced in the shadowAn indecipherable cause.
VIIO thin men of Haddam,Why do you imagine golden birds?Do you not see how the blackbirdWalks around the feetOf the women about you?
VIIII know noble accentsAnd lucid, inescapable rhythms;But I know, too,That the blackbird is involvedIn what I know.
IXWhen the blackbird flew out of sight,It marked the edgeOf one of many circles.
XAt the sight of blackbirdsFlying in a green light,Even the bawds of euphonyWould cry out sharply.
XIHe rode over ConnecticutIn a glass coach.Once, a fear pierced him,In that he mistookThe shadow of his equipageFor blackbirds.
XIIThe river is moving.The blackbird must be flying.
XIIIIt was evening all afternoon.It was snowingAnd it was going to snow.The blackbird satIn the cedar-limbs.
While Stevens' poem doesn't necessarily add up to a clear and definitive picture he does approach his topic from many unique angles. A more contemporary master of this style is Rae Armantrout, who works in a minimalist style, frequently combining seemingly disconnected segments to create a wide-ranging poetic picture. Here's her poem, "The Subject":
It’s as if we’ve just been turned humanin order to learnthat the beetle we’ve caughtand are now devouringis our elder brotherand that weare a young prince.
I was just going to clickon “Phoebe is changedinto a mermaidtomorrow!” when suddenlyit all changedinto the imageof a Citizen watch.
If each moment is in lovewith its imagein the mirror ofadjacent moments
(as if matter stuttered),
then, of course, we’re restless!
“What is a surface?”we ask,
trying to change the subject.
While this technique works well in a more abstract fashion, it can also quite successfully be used in a narrative fashion, with each section serving as a micro-chapter of sorts. Two great examples of this are Allen Ginsberg's "After Lalon" and Richard Brautigan's "The Galilee Hitchhiker."
Armed with these examples, I'd like you to try to write a poem that works in a similar fashion, using fragmentation and linking to great poetic effect.