What the hell makes a poem anyway?

This is a question that has bugged me for ages.

In essence, a poem is an artistic arrangement of words that describes or alludes to a situation (i.e. tells a story). Such storytelling does not need to conform to conventions of meter or rhyme, but often does fall into any number of prescribed conventions.

A prose story on the other hand is describing a situation or series of events, often with artistic or metaphorical arrangements of words. There are conventions in prose, but the traditionalist is not quite as restricted as the traditional poet.

All this meaningless conjecture brings me to my latest story, Countdown Macabre. At exactly 101 words, it is an artistic flash story. On the other hand, with its descending arrangement, it can also be classified as a 21 line free-form poem.

The guts of it is, I was trying to achieve something very specific – to tell the tale of a victim on the threshold of murder, while counting down events in accordance with the word count of the the story. By way of explaining, here are two lines (towards the end of the story):

Twenty-four feet crawled through damp graveyard dirt.

Seventeen pleading words, fallen on deaf ears.

The words ‘twenty-four’ and ‘seventeen’ are the 24th last and 17th last words in a countdown from 100. Tricky huh? The only hurdle was the final word, the 101st. ‘One’ is the second last word, the 100th of the tale. Which meant the final word was the 101st, or more precisely, the 0 word. It might sound like artistic wankerism, but it works for me.

Now as far as submitting the story, I had originall considered it for Flashshot, but I might try submitting it as a poem to one of the bigger US mags, like Flesh & Blood. Failing that, there’s also Antipodean SF. Such choices!

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