Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Evocative Language of Things

For poet T.S. Eliot, April was famously "the cruelest month." But it's National Poetry Month, now -- a month to pay attention to poems. In other words, words. Here are a few.

On the grass, the pigeons are still gathered where they were nested for the night. Though a few early risers are up and wandering the flagstone walks of the square. The dew sparkles. The sun dapples through the leaves of tall trees. The benches simply sit. They are waiting for someone among those rushing to work to give in, sit down, and simply be.

In lyric writing, and in poetry, we feel the evocativeness of words more intensely. That's why it's helpful for writers to study poems -- to understand how they do what they do.

One thing poems do is convey meaning viscerally, through the language of things. Poems name things, not abstractions. Trees, not nature. Bench, not public seating. Big difference. It's the naming of what's real. And we have a visceral response to such names.

Whereas, abstract language keeps us wandering around in our heads, unengaged, uninvolved with what's on the page. We step back. Soon, we'll wander off, like pigeons exploring the park. We'll be looking for writing that offers a world we know viscerally, through the evocative language of things.

To separate from the stampede, pick a bench apart and sit, is to allow the gradual enfoldment of an observing calm. It is to notice the air: a euphoria of humidity and heat. To see the pigeons give flight to the park, space defined in the lucent span of their long, slow glidings from here, to there, to there. To realize there is a presence in the trees, alive in the earth -- lifting, lilting, drifting -- an eloquence with which branches grow.

No comments:

Post a Comment