Substance, Style, Sense, Nonsense (all in context, of course!)
You’ve told me, dear friend, my critic most worthy,
That metaphors must be depicted for thee.
Only the concrete and specific
could ever make my poems terrific.
I must keep from telling the things that I feel,
approach the true altar, before it kneel –
the one that describes not the step nor the idol,
but how my knees feel, the prayers I have tried, all
in effort to show with less didactic stricture
my point, and instead paint a more telling picture.
“More telling to whom?” is the question I ask.
Inferring specifics sometimes is the task
of readers who choose to instead see their own
flowers, not just those the writer has sown.
Can there ever, perhaps, be poetic space
for a poet to tell of receiving grace
without writing exactly what grace feels or looks like,
without having to show just what the fish hook’s like?
Surely there is at least one poetry reader
who already knows the odor of cedar,
who doesn’t need to have described for them
the sound of each note in the chorus or anthem.
All of my questions in reference to showing,
not giving a lecture to readers less knowing
are not meant to anger, inflame, nor ire
my critic, who holds my feet to the fire.
I certainly haven’t taken offense
and I seek not apology nor recompense.
I just wonder if there is a form of moiety
between, (as in groups of both girl and boy-ety),
poems leading readers from abstract to concrete
and my works that you feel are vague, incomplete.
This poem is written, tongue firmly in cheek
with rhymes that are noisome and blatantly reek
Oo a poet who’s so stretched her limited skill, it
screams out desperately for someone to kill it!
I offer relief! I have penned the last line, it
remains for me only to stop, now, and sign it!
dVerse Poets Pub calls upon us today to write a poetic manifesto. They ask what poem of mine would illustrate it, and I have attempted to fulfill this prompt with the poem above, written some time ago as a response to the criticism (99.9% kind and well-intentioned) heaped upon me daily that many felt had been (still is) ignored. It has not. Most of you know by now that I have a serious and perhaps fatal case of what I term logorrhea (verbal diarrhea). I love words far too much. I love them so much that I will even make up new ones if they seem apropos to the situation. I love the feel of words in my mouth and the sound, even if dissonant, of words in my ear, physically, and in my mind’s ear. I also love how they look on the page and in my mind’s eye.
I do not love all poetry. I am particularly critical of trite and hackneyed phrases, which I all too often use myself – which means that, yes, I do not like much of my own poetry. But it seems that I must write it. So write it I do. For better or worse. I love to rhyme, and sometimes will go to great lengths to satisfy myself rhythmically and “rhymically.” Often, I do not go far enough to satisfy myself, but will in exhaustion, “make-do.” However, rhyming, strictly metered poetry is not by any means the only type or style of poetry that I write, and lately I have been leaning more to the narrative, story-telling prose type of poem. Line breaks become important, and what is not said becomes almost as important as what is said.
I believe that words, in and of themselves, show as much or even more than they tell. Since the majority of critique that I receive is centered around “too much tell and not enough show,” you might be able to imagine the contortions in which I twist myself to solve this so-called problem that I am said to have. I am told that so much of what I write can be said using a fraction of the words I use, and that is true to a certain degree, but in my mind, the delight of the words I use is more important to me than my ability to cut. I do believe that in many cases “less is more,” and that the best words and thoughts can be lost in the jungle of the superfluous and extraneous. So, as a writer and a poet, I am in constant war with typeset and blue pencil.
Short of a miracle that some may proclaim it to be, I will likely never become a minimalist in style. But to their relief, I will aim to be more concise and less redundant (another problem). I grew up loving words. My father taught me to love them. His lessons were not lost on me, but I will allow that there are other good teachers who have a great deal of valid points to make.
Another poem pulled out of my archives, illustrative of my love for words is this:
A Wordsmith’s Dilemma
I’ve heard it time and time again –
The bigger the word, the more the pain
To understand what one is reading!
I’ve always been against such pleading.
I’ll never cease my valiant fighting
Not to simplify my writing!
Woe to all who’d put a hex upon
My complete and unabridged lexicon.
Such acts require the damnification.
Of those with no verbal sophistication
They think my language high-fallutin’?
My reply is “Yer darn tootin’!”
I use words to avoid confusion
About my meaning or allusion.
To do so, I search every day
For exactly le mot juste to say.
(And often, when I’m in a pinch
I will resort to using French.)
My verses of poetic creation
Are not a conceited affectation.
My aim is not perplexity
When I employ complexity.
To condense all words to just one syllable,
Like “cash is due” for “services billable,”
Would make my metaphors, I fear,
Uncouth, unartful, and unclear.
To simplify an expressive art
Would be to extricate my heart.
My poems can be complicated,
Long, and unabbreviated.
My archetypal philosophy
Gives voice to my theosophy.
Trite and common words perturb me,
Irritate, nettle, rag, disturb me.
It’s mediocrity I fight,
In everything I say and write!
To satisfy my rhyming quest
I’ve always tried to do my best.
However – though it makes me queasy –
I’ll search for words precise and easy.
But, until I get the hang of it
You can expect me to harangue a bit!
I wish all of you, my Gentle Readers, the abundant blessings of enough. . .