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.
As a freelancer, I find money to be tight most of the time. I quit my job as a legal assistant in the summer of 2009 to fully pursue freelance writing. I’ve gained a few gigs since then, but it seems that my finances are dwindling down to the wire.
So I’ve faced the music and decided it’s time to get a job. Even if I have to be an assistant again. Even if I’m an assistant in a place that offers me no upward mobility. Even if I’m making a measly hourly wage. It must be done.
And now I’m raising the white flag, waving it around in hopes to find a crappy, meaningless, bill-paying job. I would actually be happy waking up at 7 a.m., making lunch, getting to work, having tasks to complete, having people to talk to, and earning a paycheck. One where the employer takes out taxes and I might be eligible for a tax refund next year.
Oh, because this year I think I owe the government. Freelancing, such a hard, scary, sexy bitch of a job.
When someone says “Amy and me were at the mall the other day”, we all wince. When someone forwards you an email with the subject line “send this to ten people or your doomed”, we turn our noses up and hit delete. When your boss sends out a memo reading “employees are wasting to much lunch time”, we physically recoil/roll our eyes/bang our fists.
Why do you work for someone who doesn’t know the difference between too and to? Or –gasp!– why are you working for someone who wouldn’t care about the difference even if you told him?
The trouble with grammar is, no one cares.
Say my mother were correcting you on how to bake cookies. I bet you would listen to her, because you want cookies. But grammar-correction comes with nothing but embarrassment. I’ve embarrassed you because you were wrong. You’ve embarrassed me because everyone thinks I’m a nerd. No one cares about the difference between who and whom.
My boyfriend’s expertise involves math, computers, sound, engineering. He is a very smart audio/electrical engineer, and he frequently attempts to explain his projects to me, and sometimes I even understand them! I, being the nerd that I am, listen with zeal, excited about another academic challenge. Can I follow? Can I understand a tiny fraction of accoustics, with absolutely no training? I am a genius! I knew I could’ve been anything! I just chose to be an English major because it was my passion!…
Wait, why didn’t I choose something else…?
And there. I’ve really gotten away from the point, but I’ve found it again. The point is, you listen to the plumber so you can unclog your drain. You listen to my mom because you love cookies. You listen to my boyfriend because he can tell you how to hook up your electronics. Why do you listen to me?
So I can berate you on your ignorance of homonyms?
There’s really no reason to listen to me. Just read something funny, stimulating, or intelligent. Words on a page don’t talk back; I do.