Saturday, October 17, 2009

Barbara Crooker: Poetry Tip & Prompt of the Day

By Barbara Crooker
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TIP: Never Say Never

This is a compilation of words that writers on my women’s poetry discussion group were told never to use in a poem: shards, pink, fuchsia, your grandmother, your pets, lover, iridescent, rainbows, stars, the dark, the moon, heart, moment, absence, loss, dream, always, memory, silver, mommy, daddy, love. In general, this is excellent advice for the beginning writer. But let’s also think about those who’ve broken the rules: Sylvia Plath, and her “Daddy” poem, Marge Piercy and her poems about cats, Jane Hirschfield in her book Lives of the Heart who uses heart and love in almost every poem. Sometimes, you need to break the rules. Rod Jellema has a poem called “Early Morning Exercise, Lake Michigan,” where he uses words that the National Council of English Teachers said were the most unmelodic in the English language, and I have a poem called “An Extreme Material Breech at an Undisclosed Secret Location,” where I got my words from “the Archived List of Banished Words” which I found on the internet.

Prompt: 1. Go through a recent poem, and remove any of the above words. Try to find unusual replacements. For example, Peter Murphy says, “Don’t say love, say switchblade.” 2. Write an interesting poem using some of these forbidden words. You might use “I was told never to use” as a refrain or anaphora.

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