removed for revision
Tag Archives: revision
8:57 am — Atlanta
Hello dear readers. I hope everyone is well and writing. Today, I shall speak about a group of words and then we will take a week’s break from my telling you what you should not be using. Next week I shall talk about some internet resources I have found worth bookmarking. Then, it’s back to words that should be used sparingly.
The grouping for today:
here is/are, there is/are
The main problems with these phrases are their blandness, lack of specificity, and use of verbs of being, which contribute to the blandness. They say nothing. I said in a blog about active versus being verbs: This is not to say never use being verbs. Sometimes we want to have a state of being, but too much being leaves the reader with a fuzzy, and often dull, image. There is nothing to see when something is, as opposed to something running, singing, breaking…When you use being verbs, do so with deliberation and an awareness of the effect.
You read: “Look. There’s John.” Or you read: “Look. John is standing over by the fountain.” Which gives you a picture?
You read: “Where’s the bread?” “It’s here.” Or you read “The bread is on the cutting board.” I am still using a being verb in the second example, but I am talking about the state of the bread’s location. I am being specific about “here”.
In poetry your phrasing will be less stilted, but the rules of specificity and sensory imagery still apply. You need to give the poem and your readers something to hang onto: active verbs, specific whens and wheres.Your objective is to engage the readers’ senses.
Be aware in your own reading, not just of poetry, but of newspapers, magazines, and novels, of how often these phrases appear and how much the writing lacks because of them. Be aware, too, of the writing that does not use these phrases and how much richer and more concrete what you are reading about becomes.
Short and sweet today. I am in recovery mode from having a temporary crown put on a molar yesterday. I shall see you back here tomorrow for the last of the short roundups. Next week we are into May and I shall return to the regular roundup list. Tuesday will be ballad day, and next Thursday, bookmarkable sites.
8:45 am — Atlanta
Good day everyone. I hope all is well around the world, or at least quiet. Keeping in mind National Poetry Month, I will keep my blogs short for April.
I think, today, I will give you a couple of lists to ponder. The first is: Do not use these words in your writing. The second is: Use these words sparingly and with deliberation. The key for both lists is deliberation — that you use the words you choose with knowledge of their effect on the writing as a whole, and on the reader. I ask that you ponder both lists and ready questions or arguments, and next week I shall go through the first list and explain why these words should not be used in your writing.
List one — do not use these words:
here is/are, there is/are,
List two — use these words sparingly and with deliberation:
I leave you to think about why these words. I will see you Friday for a modified prompt list. Most sites are modifying themselves for April, but I have seen a couple of interesting exercises. Then [note, then is one of the use with intent words], Tuesday we shall look at some acrostic variants that I enjoy playing with.
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.
8:06 am, Friday Freeforall –Atlanta
Welcome to another Friday and what looks to be a Spring weekend for almost everyone [or an autumn one for Downunders].
First in our prompts, as Donna changes her prompts Saturday, is the Poetry Tow Truck. Donna challenges us to try a new poetic technique [which may not be new to everyone]: Anaphora is a device where a word or series of words is repeated at the beginnings of lines or phrases to create emphasis… So your job today is to use a repeated phrase in a new poem draft – but not just any repeated phrase. To find out which phrases she suggests we use, visit. Donna also provides links to examples.
For one word posts, start with Writer’s Island where they provide synonyms for tribute to offer different directions to go with their word choice.Sunday Scribblings offers us big. One Single Impression‘s word is passionate and it’s worth visiting just to read Joseph Harker’s poem “Aesthetics,” which accompanies the prompt word.
If you like to have a line as your starting point, go to Carry On Tuesday. This week, the opening line is from “Home Thoughts From Abroad”. Not by Robert Browning but Clifford T Ward: I could be a millionaire if I had the money. To read the lyrics or hear a rare live recording, visit the site for the link.
Over at Scribble & Scatter, Susan May James offers the first of the photo prompts. She also offers a chance to submit our poems for possible publication with the photographs, so visit her site for details… and to see the pictures.
We are asked, by Big Tent, to write a poem about being stuck. By now you know you have to visit them for the rest of the prompt because their prompts are always so much more than the initial suggestion.
It’s all about food, drink and indulgence at Jingle Poetry. They have two videos and a poem to help inspire us, in case the subject matter isn’t to our taste Next week they offer lies, deception and misrepresentation which has all sorts of possibilities.
I don’t always include Poets & Writers, but for the visual among you their prompt is an interesting one: Choose a poem that you are in the process of revising. Draw a map of that poem, paying attention to the details of its landscape, its realities and abstractions, its landmarks, the spacial relationships among its features. Use the map to guide a revision of the initial work. This exercise often clarifies, adds new detail, or even sends a writer off in a new direction.
The photograph at Magpie Tales is clever, as it offers both a shamrock and a sign of Spring.
The alliterative introduction at ABC Wednesday starts: IT was INEVITABLE that for the INTRODUCTION to “I” I would have trouble with my INTERNET EXPLORER. I tried to write this ICEBREAKER last night, but being INTERNET IMPAIRED, I was unable to do so. I thought I’d tell Denise that my IGUANA ate my INTERNET, but I IMAGINED an IMPROBABLE excuse like that would leave her INDIGNANT at my IMMATURITY. Go on. You know you want to read the rest.
I thought I would give Three Word Wednesday separate billing this week, as they do offer three words with definitions. Their dictionary source is a good one and I find myself thinking in many directions. And, of course, although the challenge is to use all three words, if you hare off after one, or two, that’s fine. Breeze, mellow, and tickle come with definitions that offer two distinct directions one could follow.
A site that doesn’t usually offer a visual prompt, We Write Poems gives us a link to a particularly evocative piece of street art to consider. Go just to see the art, but it and its setting give rise to interesting possibilities.
It’s worth visiting Poets United to read Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope”. That is also their prompt for this week, based on the events in Japan. Visit their site to see what else they say about hope.
And that brings us to the end of another week. Please do visit again on Tuesday for the third in the series on dialogue poems and again on Thursday for some possibly final words on revision. Have a wonderful weekend and write.
9:09 am, Thursday — Atlanta
Verbs. No part of speech communicates as effectively as a richly active verb. Whenever you come across a dull being verb (am, are, is, were, was, be, being, been), try to reorganize your poem so as to employ, instead, a better and more active verb. You want the reader to interact with the poem and that happens with active verbs.
Here is what Moat and Fairfax, from The Way to Write, have to say: “Imagine you were around at the moment the rudiments of language were being discovered. First came the grunts in the shape of names — MAN. WOMAN. FIRE. Then from outside, MAMMOTH! One big name, speaking danger. But with it a new need, the need to name something entirely different. ‘What’s that mammoth up to?’ The verb was born.
Dependent on nouns, but powerful.
Not so powerful when the mammoth is merely being, when for instance he’s sleeping; but when he’s acting, when for instance he tosses you over his head, very powerful indeed.
Nouns may be the most loaded words, but verbs are the most dramatic.
‘The mammoth is asleep under the tree.’ That expresses a state of being; a calm observation — you might say it gives a false sense of security.
‘The mammoth sleeps under the tree.’ That’s more powerful. You get the feeling that the mammoth is putting his back into it. His sleeping has almost become an act. The reader is put on the alert.
‘The mammoth has gone to sleep under the tree.’ More powerful still. That really does suggest action. It also points out that the mammoth was awake beforehand. Now the drama’s creeping in. He might wake up.
All three statements are in the present. They all say the same thing — to the untuned ear. And that’s the point. The tuned ear detects the difference. A difference of meaning, and a difference of power. The writer must have an ear; and by discipline he must tune it to register where the power, and so the meaning, lies.”
Active vs. Being
This is not to say never use being verbs. Sometimes we want to have a state of being, but too much being leaves the reader with a fuzzy, and often dull, image. There is nothing to see when something is, as opposed to something running, singing, breaking…When you use being verbs, do so with deliberation and an awareness of the effect.
A friend, Kaspalita, who is part of a duo who created a network for writers, Writing Our Way Home, wrote a poem this morning that illustrates my point and he kindly allowed me to use it as an example.
I snort up the letters in your poem
enjoy the soft edges of your vowels
your consonants draw blood
I’m spraying ink onto the page
nothing is wrong/nothing is right
the paper skits under the speed of my hand
in the morning
illuminated in a pool of dawn
I see a heap of broken words, and
on the floor, dark letters cast aside in last night’s frenzy
the only things moving are motes of dust
caught by the sun
by Kaspalita, March 17, 2011
Note the active verbs and how they set the tone and drama of the poem. Be conscious of the images they give you. Find the being verbs. The speaker is speaking of a state of being in all cases. The being verbs are necessary, but are, as they should be, a small percentage of the verbs.
Go through one, or more, of your poems and highlight the active verbs and the being verbs. See how many being verbs you can make active and if you leave a verb of being, do so because you know it is the right verb.
Thank you if you stayed through to the end. There was no way I could shorten this [and I could have made it longer!]. If you have questions, or something you wish to comment on regarding verb use, please do comment.
I will see you tomorrow for the Friday roundup of prompts and exercises and Tuesday for the next phase of dialogue poems.
8:12 am, Thursday — Atlanta
Good Day to all. If you remember, last Thursday I set an exercise to prove a point about the strength of nouns in writing. In case you haven’t read last Thursday, here it is. You might revisit the post anyway to remind yourself how dreadful my adaptation is, before reading the poem below.
When you read Masefield’s poem “Cargoes,” note the specificity of nouns. Ask yourself how those nouns affect your reading of the poem. How do they affect the mood of each stanza? How does the imagery affect you sensorily?
John Mase field
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
A book I think everyone should own is The Way to Write by John Fairfax and John Moat. It is a slender volume on language. They say this about nouns:
“The word noun comes, one way or another, from the Latin word nomen which means (here we go again) a name. ‘The name of a person, place or thing …’ Knowing what we do about names and the power they command we can surmise that nouns are important. They are, in fact, the most important, and for one good reason. Of all the parts of speech, only nouns are independent. All the rest, directly or by implication, depend on the existence of nouns for their own existence. Nouns depend on nothing.
TIGER. Bang. It stands all on its own.
But, ‘RAN’ or ‘PUNY’ or ‘INTO’ or ‘MOREOVER’ or ‘STEADILY’ — they just don’t figure. Not on their own.”
Notice in your reading of poetry, when you like a poem, whether the writer uses strong nouns and verbs; if you don’t like a poem, ask yourself what is missing…
Next Thursday, a little on verbs and a final thought on adjectives and adverbs; tomorrow is the prompt roundup for the week; and Tuesday, more dialogue poems.