Monday, 4 June 2018


"Now" is another word with which I have a deteriorating poetic relationship. I used to drop it regularly into my work to indicate a sequence of events and often the arrival at a poem's core. However, various keen editorial eyes have homed in on it as a customary weak spot. They've made me see that its explicit employment tends to feel awkward and forced. Moreover, even the use of more specific terms such as "this morning" or "tonight", etc, can fall into the same trap of clumsiness.

What are the alternatives? One of my main techniques involves the shift from explicit to implicit expressions of temporal movement, either via context or through a change in tenses. In this case, the poet's task is to ensure clarity of communication remains without the need to shout at the reader.

Of course, all the above doesn't mean I've eliminated "now" from my poems. The automatic rejection of any linguistic resource is inherently absurd. Instead, I tend to invoke it to break a poem's flow. Its role has become less to provide narrative links and more to arrest attention.


  1. I use "Now" (more often "But now") at the start of a final stanza too often, to switch from narrative/memory to conclusion. However, my main problem is "but". I could claim that it's part of my voice/style, but I get fed up listening to my own voice. As with "now" I can use alternatives ("however", "that said") but that doesn't disguise the underlying thesis-antithesis thought pattern - that of disappointment and dashed hopes. One consequence is that I notice when others share my trait. It cheered me up to discover that Margaret Drabble in "Jerusalem the Golden" has a sequence of sentences which hinge on "but", "but", "but", "but", "but", "but" and "nevertheless", "however, though", "though", "and yet", but not for long.

    1. It's one of those devices that lends itself to intentional repetition, isn't it? But unintentional repetition is such a huge danger with its use.