FRIENDS, ROMANS, BOOKWORMS

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“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ear…”   Those few, simple words written by William Shakespeare are well-known to casual readers and bookworms alike.  Similarly, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” has been drilled into our heads by our beloved English teachers.  (By the way: wherefore doesn’t mean “where,” it means “why”.) 

Banal quotes and trite cliches make us wonder why certain phrases are so easily recognized.  Why do some lines have sticking power in our brains?  We are bombarded with clever turns of scripts every day, from Facebook posts to television shows to radio ads; yet, certain quotes are indelible.

Certainly, some famous quotes stick in our gray matter due to pure rote memory.  I had a Latin teacher, Mr. Paris, who began each class by making say aloud the opening line to Caesar’s Gallic wars:  “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.”  Mr. Paris added a few more words each day, and promised us that we would probably remember this for the rest of our lives.  After the Christmas break, a 30-year-old student popped in just to say hello to Mr. Paris.  That adult could recite the entire first paragraph, and we were amazed.

Besides rote memory, there are other tricks that our brain uses to remember these kinds of phrases.  If we see a parody on television that makes us laugh, our brains will ease and we will absorb what we are hearing.  If we are very sad or angry, we might identify with a particular phrase or song lyric and subconsciously think about it.  If we are celebrating a holiday, our hearts can quickly recall moving sayings like Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, or Tiny Tim’s gleeful, “God bless us, every one!”

In your writing, remember that a heartfelt phrase can have real staying power.  We don’t always know which phrases will resonate with a fellow bookworm, but chances are that if you are sincerely writing from your heart, readers will take notice.  It takes some confidence and a willingness to be vulnerable enough to share your innermost thoughts, but isn’t this what writing is all about in the first place?

Keep writing and keep sharing!  – Cronin Detzz

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PITHY POETRY

“How long should my poem be?”

Deciding on the length of a piece of creative writing is a common question.  If one is writing a novel, the basic answer is that it must be sufficiently long enough to cover the topic, bring the emotions up to the climax, and in the end wrap it all together like the ribbon around a present. 

Poetry, on the other hand, is succinct by nature.  Poetry can be described as a piece of creative writing that distills ideas into the fewest, most impactful words possible.  Poetry could even be described as pithy – forceful and concise (not to be confused with a pith helmet).

Poetry that drags on endlessly is boring.  The best practice is to perform a Spock-like Vulcan mind dump, writing everything to your heart’s desire.  Then revisit the poem, and look for useless modifiers, repetitive adjectives, and unnecessary adverbs.  Common pitfalls include using bland words such as “very” or “really.” 

Part of the poetry-writing process should always involve masterful use of crisp words.  It is through the simplicity and beauty of language that a poet delivers a message with a powerful punch.  For example: 

“It was a very dark and stormy night”

 could be rewritten as:

 “Night clouds burst, thunder’s hunger and lightning’s thirst”

Verbosity is a problem for poets.  Find a way to put your poem into a sieve, letting the useless, murky words fall through while retaining the heart of your poem.  Challenge yourself by taking a few lines out of the poem.  If you can retain your original meaning, leave the lines out of your final draft.  Keep writing and keep sharing! – Cronin Detzz