Issue Fourteen of Bad Lilies has just gone live, including a poem from my forthcoming collection. You can read it by following this link.
Thursday, 8 June 2023
The decision whether to use a
contraction (e.g. who is or who’s) might seem insignificant at first sight, but
like any syntactic choice, it’s pivotal to how a poem works. As a consequence,
it’s one of the initial things this poetic geek notices when reading a poet’s
work for the first time, taking it as something of a signpost to how they treat
language, to their love of detail.
For a start, one thing appears clear: we should never turn our back on any resource when attempting to achieve poetic effects. There’s no fundamentalism along the lines of always going either for the full or abbreviated form. Instead, the strongest poets seem very aware of the importance of their choice in each case.
A major factor, of course, is register, i..e. contraction for an informal tone and avoidance of it for a formal turn of phrase. Mind you, some writers like to mix their registers up for specific effect, dropping a contraction into a formal sentence or avoiding one in an informal line. This can work well, generating tension, making the reader pause and have a linguistic think, although it can also appear scattergun unless kept under control.
However, on certain occasions, I can’t avoid the feeling that the poet has made their decision on arbitrary grounds. Or they’ve chosen to contract or not purely on the basis of scansion or musicality. At that point, especially if the long form has been selected, a risk of syllabic/metrical padding kicks in, and certain editors would be readying their red biro.
All in all, this supposedly simple issue becomes a poetic hand grenade once we start looking at it up close! But what about you? Do you contract…?
Friday, 2 June 2023
This is the question that The Friday Poem asked its regular reviewers for today's feature. Here's an extract from my response...
"As for the issue of what displacement activities I indulge in when I should be writing, I’m afraid my personal experience is the opposite: writing poetry is actually my displacement activity when I should be doing all sorts of other things that spell R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y! Which is another reason why I’d never want to turn poetry into my job – doing so would kill my writing overnight..."
You can read my piece in full, plus those by other Friday Poem stalwarts, via this link.