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Death of characters

This week was my first week back at MDC North, and I was introduced to a fresh batch of creative writing students. There was an incident in that class that made me smile and then sad upon future pontification. So let me provide you with some exposition first. I had them pick a line from their favorite book to be the inspiration for a poem, and because I am a notorious rascal, I had them swap lines with their neighbors. The activity seemed to be going well and they were learning the art of freeing the verse and simultaneously getting to know their neighbors via their book/line choices. I have always felt that getting to know a person's favorite book is better than having that first awkward "nice to meet you" conversation. In the end, I decided not to collect this poem. I wanted my students to take a piece of their newly formed friendships home with them. Perhaps, they would even proceed to use this starter exercise as kindling for their first poem that would be due in a few weeks. As they filed out of class, one girl lingered near my desk and asked quietly if it was okay that she killed off one of the characters in her narrative style poem. She looked like she feared some sort of penalty under the law. I smiled and said, "Oh honey, I have killed so many of my characters in poetry and fiction that I might just be a serial killer. Plus, sometimes they are just asking for it." She smiled and laughed. Her poem held so much promise, and I am glad I got her over her fear of free verse murder. When I got home I began to think about the other genres. When it comes to creative nonfiction some real life deaths are relived over and over again. Unlike fiction and poetry, they are on a devastating loop. I hope that will never be the case for her. May she always have the option of resuscitation .

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