Who is on the plum tree?
Steve Corn is an exceptional poet who has agreed to do a regular Craftsperson’s Corner for Plum Tree Books. This feature will focus on how to construct a great poem. I will be featuring his posts here. I hope you enjoy them. You can connect with Steve on Facebook
What’s in a word? Everything!
Word choice is up for discussion this week. It’s a touchy subject for some poets and prose writers but the masters are the masters for a reason.
“In addition to its sounds and its visual appearance when written, a word has one or more meanings within a sentence. The meaning is what the word signifies, what it conveys to someone who speaks the language. Even a nonsense word may have meaning -” the po-e-try dic-tion-ar-y by John Drury.
In poetry meaning is only one of the reasons to choose a specific word. Other considerations such as rhyme, rhythm, pace, meter, pentameter, pun, or the appearance as written. These are all important considerations the author should ponder. Nonsense words have even been used effectively by authors like Ogden Nash or Dr. Seuss.
Every author has their own method, but all I can do is speak to my technique. After a rough draft I read it trying to feel the rhythm. If a word doesn’t fit or seems sticky, breaks the slant, or stops the pace, I start spinning synonyms in my head, sometimes leading me to the perfect word, other times to an enlightenment on my meaning. Sometimes different idea pop in that fit the piece better. I also spin metaphors, symbols, and literary devices around, all of which can inspire a change in direction or clarify the meaning I’m looking to communicate. Don’t get caught just looking for a synonym!
A good thesaurus should be required on every writers’ desk! Here’s a story about an image of a frosty weed that had puffy frosty structures billowing from it. Sparkling hmm? Shiny, yuck, etc. etc. Time to pop open the big blue book. Effervesce. A word I hadn’t thought about because it made me think of a liquid, but it gave a bigger, fuller picture of the image in my mind. Guess what?, it fit the slant and led me to an even better stanza than I could have imagined. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem.
Black and Tan Scottish Lass,
silent as a specter.
Sensing all – Sight -Sound- Smell-
Everything, large and small.
Mind focused – searching – thinking –
Shimmering caramel feathers flow
behind a long, rich, sable coat.
Moving like a Duchess;
Noble head held high.
Swaying softly the tall gold grasses
effervesce-in frosted dresses.
Half the weathered posts are down
rusty wire along the ground.
Beneath a row of naked trees is heard-
Issuing from a cruel season’s desiccation- –
summer’s desecration. The weakest sun
attempts to shine; but only glows.
A glorious day to Pray –
Look how that one word continues the rhyme and pace of stanza 1 to stanza 2 and led me to dresses, completing the picture. I really want to hear about everyone’s techniques they use to choose the Right Word.