Simplicity. It was Henry David Thoreau’s word to live by, but it sure wouldn’t hurt a few poets to borrow, too.
Sometimes would-be poets make something simple overly complicated when all they need are a few basic ingredients. Then let these stew so the flavors can take hold.
Description, our old friend, is simplicity’s right-hand man. What does it look like, for starters? Choose the most prominent details and become the artist’s brush. A few specific nouns, a splash of color. Simile. Metaphor. But lightly. Lightly.
Just be sure your last piece of description is the most important. And waste no time ushering your reader into the poem in line one. Too often the opening lines of our early drafts are dispensable. Throat clearing before the speech.
Take care of that off stage. Then boldly step forward to the mic and deliver, getting to the point. Making your point. Simply, but powerfully.
Exhibit A today is Robert Bly’s description of a dead wren in his hand. Imagery. Metaphor. There’s no reason to make it more complicated than that, is there?
Looking at a Dead Wren in My Hand
Forgive the hours spent listening to radios, and the words of
gratitude I did not say to teachers. I love your tiny rice-like legs, that
are bars of music played in an empty church, and the feminine tail,
where no worms of Empire have ever slept, and the intense yellow
chest that makes tears come. Your tail feathers open like a picket
fence, and your bill is brown, with the sorrow of a rabbi whose
daughter has married an athlete. The black spot on your head is
your own mourning cap.
5 thoughts on “Simplify to a Few Poetic Ingredients”
There’s nothing great about abashing a method to elevate another, and it’s quite silly to build truisms around an Art.
The featured poem is quite good though.
Agreed. There are no easy answers, no truisms, no nothing. Just wings. Just prayers. So take everything here with a grain of salt AND with the understanding that it might help someone or no one, including yours truly. Thanks for taking time to check in!
” the feminine tail,
where no worms of Empire have ever slept…”
Really? Typical of Bly’s later attempts at “leaping,” which too often are disasters. Break out the de-worming med!
And this is NOT a poem, but a poetic paragraph. Poetry and prose differ in FORM, not content.
Yes, I keep forgetting to say as much, but I guess I can count on you for back-up on that count.
Yep, Ken, you shure can !