Poetry as News Story

Just the facts, Jack. That’s what detectives deal in when there’s a mystery, and that’s what newspapers deal in when there’s not.

Reporters are more about the 5 Ws and the H: who, what, why, when, where, and how. Or as many of the above as you can find, all presented in the classical inverted-pyramid style, facts first, because we can’t count on the reader to go any further than the first paragraph or two before becoming distracted by another headline.

Question is, can a straight-news, “this-happened-to-me” style work for poetry? My vote is yes, and the title of the following poem by Robert Wrigley, is a good, “just the facts” start. Exempli gratia:


Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho
by Robert Wrigley

The doe, at a dead run, was dead
the instant the truck hit her:
In the headlights I saw her tongue
extend and her eyes go shocked and vacant,
Launched at a sudden right angle—say
from twenty miles per hour south to fifty
miles per hour east—she skated
many yards on the slightest toe-edge tips
of her dainty deer hooves, then fell
slowly, inside the speed of her new trajectory,
not pole-axed but stunned, away
from me and the truck’s decelerating pitch.
She skidded along the right lane’s
fog line true as a cue ball,
until her neck caught a sign post
that spun her across both lanes and out of sight
beyond the edge. For which, I admit, I was grateful,
the road there being dark, narrow, and shoulderless,
and home, with its lights, not far away.


The poem reminds me a bit of William Stafford’s more famous deer-accident poem, “Traveling through the Dark.” Still, it’s no cinch to just relay facts like a reporter and call it poetry. It has to be rich with the muscle and bones of good writing — specific nouns and action verbs.

And yes, it wouldn’t be poetry if there wasn’t some kind of reflection at the end. Gratefulness despite the brush with another creature’s death foreshadowing one’s own, in this case, with human hungering, as always, for “home, with its lights, not far away.”