Damned* Adjectives II: The Sequel

dean young

Yesterday’s game was such a mad success with online poet-gamers and poet-grammar lovers (in both cases, their numbers are legion) that I thought I’d follow up with a contemporary poet, the wildly creative Dean Young.

The first version of his poem below, “Hammer,” features highlighted adjectives. Some of them are his adjectives and belong. Some of them I have added, to see if you can pick them out as superfluous for all the reasons adjectives can BE superfluous (and I love describing adjectives  as being unnecessary by using adjectives–first “superfluous” and now “unnecessary.”

In any event, Young’s actual poem is a scroll-down below, so no cheating. Just pencil down the bad boys (my imposters) and tally up your score.

 

“Hammer”
by Dean Young

Every Wednesday when I went to the shared office
before the class on the comma, etc.,
there was on the desk, among
the notes from students aggrieved and belly-up
and memos about lack of funding
and the quixotic feasibility memos
and labyrinthine parking memos
and quizzes pecked by red ink
and once orange peels,
a claw hammer.
There when I came and there when I left,
it didn’t seem in anyone’s employ.
There was no room left to hang anything.
It already knew how to structure an argument.
It already knew that it was all an illusion
that everything hadn’t blown apart
because of its proximity to oblivion,
having so recently come from oblivion itself.
Its epiphyses were already closed.
It wasn’t my future that was about to break its reedy wrist
or my past that was god knows where.
It looked used a number of times
not entirely appropriately
but its wing was clearly healed.
Down the hall was someone with a glove
instead of a right hand.
A student came by looking for who?
Hard to understand
then hard to do.
I didn’t think much of stealing it,
having so many hammers at home.
There when I came, there when I left.
Ball peen, roofing, framing, sledge, one
so small of probably only ornamental use.
That was one of my gifts,
finding hammers by sides of roads, in snow, inheriting,
one given by a stranger for a jump in the rain.
It cannot be refused, the hammer.
You take the handle, test its balance
then lift it over your head.


 I needed a little help with the word “epiphyses,” so I jumped to the American Heritage Dictionary site, which told me it was “the end of a long bone that is originally separated from the main bone by a layer of cartilage but later becomes united to the main bone through ossification.”


As the adjective would tell you, Dean can be quite erudite in his vocabulary.


OK, then. Let’s see how you did. Below is Dean Young’s “Hammer” as it should be. Hopefully you removed and dropped into your wastebasket for superfluous words (every poet should have one) all unnecessary words.


“Hammer”
by Dean Young
Every Wednesday when I went to the shared office
before the class on the comma, etc.,
there was on the desk, among
the notes from students aggrieved and belly-up
and memos about lack of funding
and the quixotic feasibility memos
and labyrinthine parking memos
and quizzes pecked by red ink
and once orange peels,
a claw hammer.
There when I came and there when I left,
it didn’t seem in anyone’s employ.
There was no room left to hang anything.
It already knew how to structure an argument.
It already knew that it was all an illusion
that everything hadn’t blown apart
because of its proximity to oblivion,
having so recently come from oblivion itself.
Its epiphyses were already closed.
It wasn’t my future that was about to break its wrist
or my past that was god knows where.
It looked used a number of times
not entirely appropriately
but its wing was clearly healed.
Down the hall was someone with a glove
instead of a right hand.
A student came by looking for who?
Hard to understand
then hard to do.
I didn’t think much of stealing it,
having so many hammers at home.
There when I came, there when I left.
Ball peen, roofing, framing, sledge, one
so small of probably only ornamental use.
That was one of my gifts,
finding hammers by sides of roads, in snow, inheriting,
one given by a stranger for a jump in the rain.
It cannot be refused, the hammer.
You take the handle, test its balance
then lift it over your head.
Dean Young, “Hammer” from Skid. Copyright © 2002 by Dean Young.
———————————————————————————————————————————

That’s right. I added but one adjective to the original: the word “reedy” before “wrist” in the line “It wasn’t my future that was about to break its wrist.”

How’d you do? Better than yesterday? Remember, a good poet leaves necessary adjectives — ones that carry their weight — and, during revision, weeds out the reedy ones, such as all those blue skies and puffy clouds and green grasses. This is where I say, “Class dismissed!” Oh, and have a day! (Let’s assume the “good,” shall we?)

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