Thursday Thoughts: It’s All About the Nouns

03 Mar

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,
Emeralds, amethysts,
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,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
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.

1 Comment

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


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One response to “Thursday Thoughts: It’s All About the Nouns

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