prompt 171 write less!
- oh no, what’s that we say? do we want you to write less instead of more? does that seem odd for a poetry prompt site to say? we’ll tell you why.
nothing new, what we suggest. poetry has never been about demonstrating a volume of words, but rather their quality in essence to say more with less. so that’s where our compass is pointing this week.
you may discover saying less is far more a challenge than it might seem. and it is not a process that will land in only one try but become a lasting companion to your writing life.
rather than writing a new poem we’d like you to take some previously written poem of yours and apply the notion of elemental editing using fewer words. take some time, rushing will not work, and read then read again. look at your poem with a generous and fearsome eye and ear! what words actually contribute to the message the poem wants to impart? really look and listen. what contributes, keep those words. what does not, remove. be fearless.
even reducing the bulk of a poem by half would not be unreasonable. this process will take more than one pass. don’t hurry toward result. listen. what words create the energy of the poem, that’s what you’re listening to hear. really, you will feel and know the “rightness” of your words when you listen. keep what makes the poem move.
and yes, a reminder, ruthless is a good word regards this editing. we know how dear, how precious our words can be to us (and we definitely include ourselves). however, you know the truth of your words, what is right and what does not contribute. you need to be asking that question of every word within the poem.
editing out words you may discover what seem raw breaks in the flow are perhaps exactly what should be. a pause or break can be as important as the words themselves. life is just like that, without polite connections between every “event”. many poems include a lot of “connective tissue”, words to make smooth the distance between what the poem means to say. look for this kind of connective text to edit out. your poem will mean the same, but be more powerfully said.
after that initial culling of words, read again. what words can be replaced by a more accurate or evocative word? every word counts. this means more than just a dictionary search. look inside yourself. what word is there, even that word you don’t want to say. even if it doesn’t make obvious sense. (here’s where poems can really get personal.) here’s where new relationships are born within the poem.
live with your poem a while. give your thoughts, your feelings, your dreams, your real sense of self to percolate and rise to meet the poem on their own terms. that’s part why you can’t rush. while one hand says make the poem clear about its expression (readable?), the other says make the poem honest and right as the poem sees itself. finding that thread of relationship is a genuine poetic task.
there are no hard rules to this prompt. can you add new words? of course you can. but keep in mind the spirit of this prompt process, saying more with less.
please, we ask, show us both poem versions in your post. that will be instructive for us to witness the change.