As someone who struggled to write narrative poems in the beginning, I couldn't agree more with Eduardo C. Corral, who describes his writing process in a recent interview for Ploughshares:
"My early poems told stories. And because I didn’t stray from the truth as I remembered it, the poems were awful. The language was flat, the endings were trite – I was writing tidbits of autobiography instead of poems. It took me years of practice to learn how to listen to language, to follow it not lead it. What do I mean by listening? Most of my poems begin with a morsel of sensory detail. The beer-rich breath of a stranger, a snippet of overheard conversation, the yellow throat of a bird. Even before I jot down the detail on the page, I play with music. I utter again and again the detail. I shuffle words and syllables. I let the sounds ricochet in my head. This process allows me to play with syntax and to corrupt the original bit of language. Then I start drafting, which is always chaotic but pleasurable. I don’t impose a narrative while I draft. I follow the language. A phrase will suggest another phrase, an image will demand more attention, an adjective will call out for more vividness. This generates a lot of raw material. I isolate the lines/images/phrases that speak to each other, that form a kind of narrative. Then I start drafting again. Story is a byproduct of my process. I discover it as I draft...."