What Can We Steal From Shelley Wong’s “The Fall Forecast”?


Title of Work and its Form: “The Fall Forecast,” poem
Author: Shelley Wong
Date of Work: 2014
Where the Work Can Be Found:  The poem was first published in Issue 57 of The Collagist.  You may read the work here.

Bonuses: Here is “In the Hot-Air Balloon,” a poem Ms. Wong published in Nashville Review.  Here is an interview in which Ms. Wong discusses her poetic aesthetic and philosophy.  Ms. Wong placed her poem “Self-Portrait as Frida Kahlo” in Linebreak.

Element of Craft We’re Stealing: Making Use of Our Interests

In my view, this is a poem in which Ms. Wong considers the fashion world in the context of nature.  Fashion has seasons, the colors change, some elements die while other elements are born.  The other great strength of the poem is the beautiful language that Ms. Wong employs, painting the image in our minds with the use of colors and unexpected words and the occasional divergence from our expectations.

Now, Ms. Wong seems to know more than I do about the world of fashion.  (It’s very easy for a person to be more familiar with fashion than I am.)  Whether or not she is indeed a fashion enthusiast, the poem can teach us an important lesson.  I love Ms. Wong’s comparison between high fashion and the deep beauty of the outdoors.  This connection is probably not one that I would have made on my own,  but it’s nonetheless illuminating.  This is the point of writing-and specifically poetry-to help us think about ourselves and our world in different ways.

While I’m not a fashionista, I am a baseball card…ista.  I know a lot about that field and could apply it to my writing in some way.  I know a little bit about fashion pens and have even done minor repairs to these functional works of art.  I’m very familiar with the Detroit Tigers and with The Howard Stern Show.  And the fascinating and terrifying story of Dianetics and Scientology.  We all have oases of expertise that combine to create our unique worldviews.  This knowledge can be put to powerful use in your work.  What kind of unexpected metaphors can you create by making use of your own special knowledge?

Look at how beautifully Ms. Wong uses the phoneme sounds in the first few lines of the poem:

Each autumn the editors name the leaves
anew: burgundy, emerald, chartreuse,
and bronze. They want women to wear
Europe, gemstone, liqueur exclusively
made by monks, antique metal. 

Now I’m going to make a comparison informed by my interests and passions.  Ms. Wong twists and turns and twirls through different sounds in these lines.  First, the E and A vowel sounds, then W sounds, then M sounds.  What is the feeling you get when you read them aloud?  Well, it reminds me of watching a great running back dance his way through the defensive line into the secondary.  I’m a big fan of Ohio State Buckeye Brandon Saine.  Watch him weave his way around defenders…isn’t that how the poem feels when it’s on your lips and tongue?

The comparison also applies to a basketball player spinning an ankle-breaking path through the opposition:

And whether or not you’re into rap, writers in that genre are often really good at manipulating the syllables in their work in a similarly pleasing manner:

And how could I overlook that Ms. Wong borrowed a line about creative borrowing?

…If the line
looks familiar, consider Chanel, who said,
“Creativity is the act of concealing
your sources.”

What Should We Steal?

  • Capitalize upon your other passions or areas of expertise.  So you’re a brony.  Okay.  You’re probably not hurting anyone, so I say go for it.  What can your status as a card-carrying brony lend to your writing?
  • Arrange the sounds in your poem in such a way that the language can dance.  Creating alliteration in one line is a tricky and rewarding feat.  Tying a number of similar lines together may be more difficult, but adds a powerful momentum and beauty to a poem.
  • Follow the advice of Coco Chanel.  To what extent can any creative work be original?