One semester during my MFA, there were two scenes I was working on in my second novel Perish, and I was having difficulty focusing on ensuring description that was well done in those scenes. Thus, I decided to devote one of my monthly packets that I sent to my mentor on ensuring I had better wording and imagery. To do this, I imitated a section of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, with the subject matter/story being that of Perish. The imitations forced me to seek words that I might otherwise not have looked for to describe these scenes. The imitations are below. I still get a kick out of them, every time I read them, so I thought I’d share.
If you are ever having trouble getting your mind to focus on a particular scene to describe it well, I suggest using an imitation exercise. It can be really helpful.
“The Raven” Imitation:
Much I gaped at this blanched Apple that violated sight so simply,
Through its blankness much meaning – much relevancy bore;
For Patrick and Derrick could not help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing fruit drenched in Lucient’s chemical chore
Plum or Melon upon Derrick’s hand drenched in Lucient’s chemical chore
With pure White from skin to core.
But the Apple, sitting idly on the blush hand, spoke only
Of one word, as if my soul in that one word it did destroy
Nothing funny did it send forth – not a chuckle did I utter –
Till I scarcely more than muttered, “I have seen such white before –
On the morrow it won’t leave me, as my Nightmares stayed before.”
With pure White from skin to core.
Startled at the laughter broken by my reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” thought I, “what it utters is of Cyrus’s cult lore
Escaped from some maniacal master whom unmerciful Disaster
Experimented fast and experimented faster with a box just like before –
Till the color of all Hope that miserable victims must adore
Turned White, skin to core.”
But the Apple still funneling all my energy into scowling,
Straight I grabbed the blank fruit out from Derrick, Patrick, and dead mentor;
Then upon my chair sinking, I clasped my cuspate knife unblinking
Weapon into weapon, thinking what this ominous flesh of yore –
What this ugly, sickly, ghastly, blank, and ominous flesh of yore –
Meant in Whiteness, skin to core.
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing,
To the addicts whose worried eyes now burned into my sight, ignored;
This and more I sat divining, with my mouth fearlessly prying,
On the Apple’s flesh dividing so that my teeth cut into more,
On the tasteless fruit colliding so that my teeth cut into more,
Infinitum’s White, from skin to core.
Then, methought, the air grew tenser, poisoned from an unseen censer
Swung up from demon whose foot-falls thundered from beneath Earth’s stalwart floor.
“Fuck,” I thought, “Cyrus has lent thee – by some new damned leader sent me
Death – death and hell from thy memories of before;
Spit, oh spit this un-fruit and run from these memories of before!”
Quoth the Apple, “Whitest War”
Paradise Lost Imitation:
Thus Patrick parking in the closest slot
With hair red throughout all strands, and eyes
That emerald twinkled; his richly clothes inordinately
Crisp across his frame, pointed hard and long:
Lay stout singular a house, all glass as ice
As whom the fairytales name of witchy sugar,
Clear, and Postmodern, that resembled of Frank Lloyd Wright,
Philip Johnson or Alden B. Dow, whose living room
My mesmerized eye beheld, and the bedrooms,
Kitchen, within which people of all New York
Moved freest that listened to th’ bass beat:
Patrick happily stumbled on the gravel walk
The pilot of our small drug-induced team,
Deeming the house, oft, as partyers tell,
With resting anchor in his tired mind,
“Island” within our fingertips under our reality, while dream
Invested the night, and, as wished, morning delayed:
So stretched out huge in length the architecture lay
Situated on the dark grass, and never before
Had cracked or crumbled, but that the shine
And high cleanliness of all-ruling wealth
Left it in perfection to hipsters’ carefree designs,
That with little prepared souls we might
Heave ourselves within, while we sought
Alcohol of gods, and enlivened might see
How all the outside served but to bring forth
Infinite beauty, wildness and art inside
As floor to ceiling, seducing everyone
Without caution, nature and art equaled.
Forthwith up Patrick stepped from off the gravel
His immense height; on each shoulder the air
Driving backward away care’s twisting spirals, and rolled
In billows, leaving him ‘midst the front red door.
Then with crooked smile he twisted the knob
Inward, moved through the dusky air
That felt uplifting ease, till I too entered
He beckoned, if it were laudanum that ever moved,
With surety, as the jester to joyful chaos,
And I approached in turn.