I first heard the term “fixity” in a poetry class I took with the wonderful Terri Brown-Davidson: “Fixity. What fixity, anyway? Supposedly, it’s the perfect poetic word for the perfect poetic occasion.” She questions whether perfect fixity is possible in our imperfect world, and I agree, but it’s fun to imagine that it isn’t so, that we live in a world where the Real exists and our words can actually capture it, and that for every slot in our stories, we might find the perfect fit.
I do think poetic language rarely relies on generalities, preferring instead precise, detailed words. And whether it’s true of every word or only most of them, poetry exhibits a sense of fixity, that perfect word in the perfect spot, as if no other word would do.
For example, here’s an original draft of a paragraph in a story about a man meeting his neighbor:
He thinks about my kids, my wife. In one version, I imagine telling him the truth, how I messed around with this graduate teacher, how I told my wife and wasn’t redeemed and lost the children.
Here’s a revised version, with a greater awareness of finding fixity:
He wonders about my kids, my wife. In one scenario, I imagine telling him the truth, how I nailed this graduate teacher, how I confessed and wasn’t forgiven and sacrificed the kids.
In the revised version, I searched for more specific words and also tried to choose them from the same “set” of words, in this case from the realm of religion (wonders, confessed, forgiven, sacrificed, nail). And children became kids: lambs.
So that’s Thursday’s Flash Craft idea. Find fixity. And if it isn’t fixity, it might be broke.
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