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.