KISS and LIM and Triple A


Have a look at this poem:

In a flowered dell the Lady Venus stood,
 Amazed with sorrow. Down the morning one
  Far golden horn in the gold of trees and sun

Rang out; and held; and died…. She thought the wood

Grew quieter. Wing, and leaf, and pool of light
 Forgot to dance. Dumb lay the unfalling stream;
 Life one eternal instant rose in dream

Clear out of time, poised on a golden height….

Dreadful, isn’t it ? How about “ flowered dell” ? Dell ? Who the hell says “dell” ? It’s a Poetic Word. It’s a signal that what follows is Great Art. Look at “down the morning…to.. Rang out.” First of all the main verb “ rang out” comes at the end of a long sentence. It’s meant to be mannerly, stately. And what about “ Down the morning” Down ? what on earth does the phrase actually mean ? Top marks for poshness Rupe ( it’s by Rupert Brooke) but an F- for common sense.

Let’s have more fun. “Wing and leaf, And pool of light/ Forgot to dance” I beg your pudding ! What is the wing attached to ? A bird perhaps ? And do leaves and pools of light have bad memories ?
Had enough ? I certainly have. I’m sure you get the point. This is poetic language, which is different and far more beautiful than the language mere oiks like us use. Cobblers. Time for our first acronym:
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Use the shortest word you can find to do the job. Use the smallest number of words you can. If a word is not paying the rent- then cut it. Be cruel to the little devils- make one word do the work of five if you can. It’s a well known law of nature that poets are incapable of using a simple noun without slapping an adjective in front of it. You need adjectives, yes- but ration yourself . Which leads us to our second acronym.

LIM (Less Is More)
Go Minimalist but give them Story Plus . Make your poem into a puzzle. Draw the reader in by making the surface meaning easy to get hold of. Keep your reader by hinting at something below the surface. Remember- ambiguity is your friend here. Play with it. Have fun.

And now the third
AAA ( no- not anti-aircraft artillery) Avoid Awkward Abstracts
Love. Hate. Anguish. Desire. Loss.Ecstasy.
Don’t use them. They mean nothing on their own. Borrow a phrase from fiction writers-
“ Show- Don’t Tell.”

There. Now you know the rules I try to stick to when I’m writing poetry.
But you may have an entirely different, and equally valid, way of writing.
Put down the quill and unfold the keyboard. Tell me about it.


A cold song for a cold night

Ok-  this week we’re going to the  Boss, the Top Banana, the Mensch- we’re going to look at something by William Shakespeare.

Arrgh ! No ! Not Shakespeare thingy  ! He’s old fashioned and boring and you can’t understand him and he’s like…just dull !

Silence oik ! And listen to this:

What do you think ?  Lovely reading but isn’t the poem a bit olde worlde ? A bit twee ?

A bit chocolate box ? Think again

Line 1 OK- I concede- an average opening line for a winter poem. We’ve all seen icicles

Line 2. Dick the shepherd tells us this a rural poem. Why is he blowing on his nail ? Because he hasn’t got any gloves ! Because he’s poor and cold and his finger ends hurt like hell.

Line 3. We get the first hints of a household here. There’s Dick the shepherd and Tom the servant- and Tom is carrying logs in because they’re going to be needed on the fire.

Line 4. It’s so cold the milk is solid. We’re starting to get a Breughel winter scene here.

Line 5. Key words are “nipped” -you feel as though the blood is freezing in your veins. And “foul” – the roads are impassable

Line 6. The owl. Not the most cheerful of birds- then why “ merry” ? Are we getting the feeling that The Boss is being a bit ironic here?

I won’t do a full line-by-line run through of the next verse. I’d only point out (a) the breathless use of “ and” throughout the poem. He can’t wait to tell the story of our house. (b) there’s a cast of characters here- the parson who can’t be heard because of the coughing, Marian, and greasy Joan- who’s probably the kitchen maid. And  why is she keeling (scraping) the pot ? Because she’s hungry and she’s scraping out the last bit of meat or dried on gravy, that’s why.

So the “merry note” of the owl isn’t so merry after all.

Far from being a jolly, rilly-me-dilly-me-and-a raspberry -o song, this is a harsh portrayal of a household on the breadline, in the middle of a filthy, cold winter.

Difficult ? Not really. Bland ? Certainly not.Powerful ? I think so.

There, that didn’t hurt, did it ?