anecdotal poetry

1 post

Going Off Track

Narrative poetry is more often anecdotal poetry than not. When a poet gets caught up in a sweeping or, God forbid, generational story, she may never see the end of it. But anecdotal? And, say, one featuring the generational attitudes? Much more manageable.

Here Lawrence Raab starts with words he surely heard one day: “Your train departed ahead of schedule.” From there, he lays out a brief story featuring unexpected reactions in his family, chiefly from his son, who apparently has a bit of the Tom Sawyer in him—enough to defuse any angst or anger, enough to turn a smile.


It’s Not Just Trains
Lawrence Raab

The ticket office was closing
when we arrived and were informed
our train had departed ahead of schedule.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Trains
leave on time, or late, but never early.”
“Such things happen,” the agent replied,

“more often than you would think.”
“Look around,” he added,
“and pay attention. It’s not just trains.”

When I told my family of this unexpected
predicament, I was taken aback
by their lack of surprise. “Let’s wander

a while through this pretty little town,”
my wife proposed, “and see what happens.”
“Or else,” said my son, “let’s head off

into that dark woods beyond the tracks,
each alone and without our baggage,
and try to find our way out

before nightfall.” He smiled, I thought,
at me in particular, as if he’d known
all along that would be the plan.


Not much in the way of poetic tricks and flowery language here. Just the facts, Jack. An anecdote straight up.

Sometimes story alone can carry the day. Even in poetry.