Final Word on Parts of Speech

24 Mar

Thursday Thoughts: 9:48 am — Atlanta

This is not to say I will not revisit parts of speech. I have found with my own writing that I need to reread the things I already know for my brain to say: Oh right, need to check I haven’t indulged in adverbial insanity. Some things, such as parts of speech, are now ingrained, but others require me to reread at least once a year. In not too distant posts I will talk with you about the books I read and reread on writing.

I will let a respected magazine have the final word, so that you are not just hearing me…and the authors, Moat and Fairfax, of The Way to Write. The Comstock Review is in its third decade of publication. One of the best things the magazine does is to provide an invaluable resource in the form of an online Poet’s Handbook. Here is what they have to say about those pesky adverbs and adjectives:

There’s More To Trim Than The Trees

One of the most common complaints we have regarding the poetry submissions which come our way is the excess baggage they carry along, all those little adjectives and adverbs which do wonders in describing things in prose but which do nothing to help the development of a poem.

We find ourselves constantly telling poets that they need to trim their poems; sometimes, especially if we sense this is a beginning poet, we will show him/her what we mean by “trimming” one of the verses of a submitted poem, usually one of theirs which has possibilities. We can imagine their dismay at not seeing some of the phrases which they spent hours thinking up, wondering how some heartless creature could discard their beautifully worded phrases and lay the bones of the poem so indecently bare. Or they may find whole stanzas eliminated because they indulged in a little discourse or philosophizing somewhere in the middle, telling the reader instead of continuing to show him/her. Many an otherwise good poem has been returned for this reason. Luckily, our poets generally listen to our suggestions for improving a piece and often the poem returns, far superior in its new casting.

It is important to remember one distinction between prose and poetry. Prose is expanded language while poetry is compressed language. Adjectives and adverbs must give way to metaphor and simile. It is the idea which must be stunning, not just the words in which it is clothed.

Sometimes we are all in danger of forgetting that words do not the poem make. Before a poem is anywhere near complete, the poet should read through it and remove all qualifiers to see which ones are not germane.

Chances are, most of those adjectives will stay out once s/he sees the uncluttered poem and revision may take the poem in a slightly different and more unique direction than the poet had originally planned.
The Comstock Review – The Poet’s Handbook [the bolded sentences above are my emphasis]

So there you have it, a view by me, by the authors of a respected book on parts of speech, and a view by editors of a magazine which has been around and publishing for a long time.

I will see you tomorrow for the Friday roundup of exercises and prompts and Tuesday for the fourth in the series of dialogue poems. Next Thursday we will talk about no-no words in writing. Happy writing.

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Posted by on 24/03/2011 in poetry, writing


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