Thursday, March 03, 2011

“A Play Is A Poem Standing Up.”

Federico Garcia LorcaI love that quote.

Sounds like something a poet would say. In fact, one did.

I always thought of Federico Garcia Lorca as a poet. It wasn’t until I started playwriting that I learned he was also a playwright.

I like thinking of a play as a poem standing up, as a poem that’s come to life—not just in the bodies of the actors, but in the visual imagery on stage, in the soundscape, in metaphor, in language.

And after reading Malachy’s blog post on openness, I’m reminded of another way a play is like a poem.

When I was getting my MFA in poetry we always had two classes every semester, one of which was a poetry workshop. Every week students would bring in a poem and we’d read it aloud and then discuss it.

At first this was a bit intimidating. I didn’t have a Literature background, hadn’t really studied poetry before and some of the poems were hard for me to understand. Most weren’t traditional narrative poems, most were experimental and language poems.

I had to learn to be open. To encounter a poem on its own terms.

I’d start with the visual space the poem occupied on the page. Then I’d look at the language. The word choice. Line breaks. The images the poem conjured. Lyricism. Sound. Rhythm.

And this is that other example of how a play is like a poem. Sometimes you have to just encounter a play on its own terms. You have to be “open,” as Malachy put it. You have to let the experience of the play wash over you because sometimes a poem or a play is about a feeling. About bringing you to a single moment, an emotional revelation.

And the only way to arrive at that experience is to be open and willing.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. And I love Lorca's standing poems for their violence and sensitivity. When done right (Alba, Blood Wedding, Yerma - you name it), they make something within stand up and roar.

    On a sidenote, I had an acting teacher once tell me that when I was onstage I was representing humanity. I've never quite "stood" on stage the same way again.

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