Tuesday, May 02, 2006

“Flashy” Poems

By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other.

--Rita Dove


I’ve been thinking the last couple of days about something my poetry coach said. She remarked that my poems aren’t typically “flashy” and need the right kind of reader to appreciate them. By flashy I believe she means that I don’t have a lot of exquisite/beautiful language in my poems or really out there metaphors and similes. I also don’t use a lot of words like sourgum, lily, or plush—beautiful diction.

I build a lot of my poems with nouns and verbs and few adjectives and fewer adverbs. I remember being taught to write poems this way, to use adjectives sparingly and adverbs almost never. My poetry coach is encouraging me to use more adjectives in my poems and take more risks. It is difficult for me to be “flashy.” A few years ago I was far less happy as a person, so I was much more in touch with the subtleties and strength of my feelings, which I think helps you write flashier poems and take more risks in your work. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve lost my edge as a writer, but I do not want to go back to being as unhappy as I used to be for the sake of my writing. Then there is my hospital finance job that very much encourages me to always be rational, use common sense, communicate plainly and efficiently, be organized, and be very reality-based. Since I need to be like that Monday – Friday from 8:00 – 5:00 week in and week out, it is very difficult to switch that off and write flashier poems that might have a better chance of getting readers’ attention when I send them off to literary magazines. Anyway, I am trying to be more mindful about using adjectives and taking more risks in my work.


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