Last night when we kissed,
there were fireworks, I say.
I love you, he says.
No, I say, there were
actual fireworks, but
I love you also,
like light exploding.
→A quickie for your Independence Day.
As I spend time thinking about words, digesting words, rolling them around in my mouth and then my chest, I realize more and more the power of efficiency. Poetry, good poetry, capitalizes on the efficiency of language. So often when I speak, write, or even think, I’m not using the word that I actually mean to use. Being accurate with language is no longer valued in speech. Sure, we all appreciate hearing well-read, witty people share their views, but I rarely make an effort to search for the most accurate description possible. This is pathetic, since I call myself a writer.
Writing poetry daily has forced me to slow down and examine my words. I’m learning how to cut the fat, so to speak. Now I’m learning how important it is to go inside the poem with a scalpel and take out all of the waste.
Perhaps I was drawn to form poetry, namely the sonnet, in college because form demands efficiency.
Brad Leithauser, in an essay titled Poetry and Efficiency for The Best American Poetry’s website, writes of the sonnet:
“Efficiency? Effectiveness? What could be a more effective and efficient human interchange than the one in which someone you’ve never met offers you, in a tidy package of fourteen lines–a gift whose unwrapping will require no more than a minute or two–an intact and insightful new vantage on the universe?”
This accuracy, this efficiency, is necessary in poetry, so that once you cut away the fluffy lines and useless or unclear images, you’re left with the purest, most concentrate words on the page.
I would love to hear any thoughts on word choice and efficiency in poetry, or in life in general! Thanks for reading.
My friend Mari Stanley and I have started exchanging poems for our own little workshop sessions done via email. Now April is here and we both signed up for The Southeast Review’s 30-day Writer’s Regimen. For 30 days we’ll both get a prompt, access to podcasts, a reading-writing prompt, a “craft talk” with an author, and a literary quote delivered to our inbox. I’m pretty excited about it. The challenge is to write a poem a day for 30 days, even if the poem isn’t great. We have to “flex our writing muscles” — and I want to do just that.
Mari also told me about Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer, which will also have a prompt a day for the entire month of April.
Let’s celebrate the enchantment of words!
In Toronto I picked up two books of poetry from local Toronto poets. The one on the left is The Dagger Between Her Teeth by Jennifer LoveGrove. The cover art was amazing, so I had to have this one. The one below is Know Your Monkey by Elyse Friedman.
I’m looking forward to writing a talk back poem using one of these poets soon. I bought these books from a spectacular used book store in/around the Little Greek neighborhood called Circus Books & Music. (Really, stop by if you’re in Toronto.) I could have bought a lot more than these two books, but I had to limit myself.
Toronto’s art and music scene was inspiring (especially the shops along Queen Street!), and I hope to go back someday.
My jazz club recommendations for Toronto include The Rex (where we saw the University of Toronto Jazz Ensemble) and The Reservoir. Both places had fantastic music with a cool atmosphere, but they were very different places. Check ’em out!
I am looking for new/old poetry that is at least new to me! I would love some suggestions. If you have a favorite poet, and more specifically a favorite collection of poems by that favorite poet, please do share it with me. I’ve ordered several new books, but they are in transit. And, I’m always looking for an excuse to buy more books. Really, who isn’t?
I stumbled across this poem by Carol Ann Duffy, and it really caught my eye. I thought I would share it with you, whoever you are, you curious internet stalkers! Here you go:
I put two yellow peepers in an owl.
Wow. I fix the grin of Crocodile.
Spiv. I sew the slither of an eel.
I jerk, kick-start, the back hooves of a mule.
Wild. I hold the red rag to a bull.
Mad. I spread the feathers of a gull.
I screw a tight snarl to a weasel.
Fierce. I stitch the flippers on a seal.
Splayed. I pierce the heartbeat of a quail.