I’ve been working (more off than on) for a long time now on a chapbook inspired by US TV shows from the 1980s. I’ve done poems on Quantum Leap, The A-Team, The Equalizer, the miniseries Lace… I write them without rewatching the original programmes, so the poems are actually based on my memories of the shows. (I do look at Wikipedia a bit to refresh my memory.) Growing up in the US, I watched TV constantly, while reading or doing homework. It might be nostalgia to write about these old programmes now, but I can’t help thinking that they were more fun and outlandish than a lot of the current crop of ‘prestige TV’ dramas. I would also love to see more poems inspired by TV, or films, or music – popular artforms – instead of always taking inspiration from painting and sculpture. Enough of the Musée des beaux-arts, where’s the killer poem about The Love Boat?
For ‘Murder, She Wrote’, I wanted to try using lines of quite different lengths, some really short, some long, so I decided to make each line a self-contained sentence. I also wanted to create a poem consisting entirely of one-line stanzas, something I’d seen a few other poets do (apologies for not remembering particular names). But when I looked at the layout on my computer, I felt it needed to be clearer that each line was a separate stanza, so I added an asterisk as a section break after each one. There’s a sense that the asterisks are like jump cuts between scenes – that there’s missing information in the interstices, events happening that we don’t see. A narrative told through fragments or glimpses.
The asterisks also suggested to me how people nowadays use them when texting or messaging – if you’ve sent a message with a typo, you follow it with another message that starts with an asterisk to indicate you’re correcting your mistake. So I decided to start some lines in the poem with an asterisk, as though they were corrections or clarifications of the preceding line. I guess I very much write ‘for the page’ rather than performance, as none of these effects would be apparent if you were only hearing the poem aloud.