The other week someone asked the Hint Fiction account on Twitter what differentiates Hint Fiction from poetry. The reply was pretty simple:
What differentiates most free verse poetry from any prose story? The form itself. Hint Fiction is prose, not verse.
I'm sure there will be some who will argue this. I'll be the first person to admit that I don't know much about poetry, despite having taken a few poetry classes in college -- or I should say English classes that spent some great deal of time on poetry. Personally, I'm not a fan of poetry. I have really nothing against it; it just isn't something I like to read. If I come across a literary journal or some magazine and it has fiction and poetry, I will almost never read the poetry. Again, I have nothing against it. I know there is some really great poetry out there, that some writers do amazing things with verse, but it's just not my cup of tea, just as fiction is not many poets' cup of tea either.
And so free verse poetry? I'm sure there's more to it than simply appearing as verse. I've sometimes thought about taking a very short flash fiction piece, breaking it up into verse, and calling it a free verse poem. And I'm sure that's possible and has been done many times. But I also feel like it's cheating the form out of what it's supposed to be and what it can accomplish.
But anyway. The reason I mention this is because the question got me thinking. I've always considered "Corrections and Clarifications" to be my very first Hint Fiction piece, but it's really not. Because many years ago, back in 2002, I wrote a haiku hybrid.
To help set the stage, I was friends with Jack Fisher, the publisher and editor of the horror and dark fantasy magazine Flesh & Blood. I was also seeing this girl who -- to protect the guilty -- we'll call Wilma. Jack had told me a lot of funny stories about the crazy stuff writers put in their cover letters (something I would soon encounter once I was hired on to the magazine). So one night when I was at Wilma's place and we were on her computer for some reason (I think something was messed up with her e-mail) I thought it would be funny to send Jack a submission but sent as a crazy writer person. I glanced at Wilma who was holding this big stuffed red dog I'd gotten her as a gift, and wrote a quick three lines in the e-mail, titling it "Wilma" for some reason, and then writing something along the lines of "Thank you in advance for accepting my poem" and sent it.
A day or two later, I was chatting with Jack online and managed to ask if he'd gotten any crazy submissions. He had an idea what I was hinting at and said "Wilma?" I wrote back something like "Ha! Yeah, thought you'd appreciate that." And he replied something like "Funny thing is I actually really like it."
So he ended up accepting it for the magazine, though we agreed to change the title to something more suitable. Jack was even crazy enough to put my name on the cover (done by Chad Savage), which I didn't complain about at all:
Once I came on as Senior Editor at the magazine, the haiku hybrid became the basis for a little marketing idea I came up with that I called Easter Egg Haikus. Basically, in each issue we'd feature a haiku written by a well known horror or fantasy writer. We wouldn't include the writer's name on the cover or even on the table of contents. It would be a hidden treat, like what was all the rage on DVDs back then. Some of the writers included Douglas Clegg, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, T. M. Wright and Ramsey Campbell. I think there were one or two others but I forget who they were now, and besides, Jack ended up deciding to shut down the magazine a year or two after I'd quit (my quitting had nothing to do with him shutting down the magazine, mind you, as he already had a lot of help; it was just time for it to end).
So anyway, despite the poem being in verse, I'd say it still hints at a larger, more complex story, huh?
Holding a stuffed dog That was not alive--- Until it ate her face off.
Now it seems like I have an extra copy of this issue. Who wants it? First person who says so in the comments section gets it.