View Full Version : Adjectives

Fats Velvet
November 7th, 2012, 08:03 PM
Imagery is a pillar of poetry, or so I've been told. Far be it from me to chip away at the notion, although I've got opinions to the contrary, all of which are are incidental to this thread. Something has been bothering me. Adjectives. Poems well (over) seasoned with adjectives. I find they throw the flavor off. An example from my favorite poet, Robert Lowell, from one of my favorite poems, Epilogue:

I hear the noise of my own voice
The painter's vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light. [Author's own italics]

Lots of meaning packed into those lines.

He could have taken a different route:

I hear my echoing voice.
The painter's vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.

Both contain images. Yet I get the sense that something fundamental becomes lost when the adjective "echoing" replaces the original "I hear...my own voice".

With the alteration, the author's sense of his own voice as "noise" becomes implicit. It is pushed to stage left.The meaning of the two lines appear very similar but the emphasis in the modified line falls on the fact that the author hears his own voice, rather than his perception of his voice and what it is saying. Not only is the meaning subtly but significantly altered, but the change modifies the mood, from active introspection to passive observation. This is actually a case where telling ("I hear the noise of my own voice") works BETTER than showing ("I hear my echoingvoice").

I notice many poems which rely on adjectives entirely, or almost entirely, as the sole visual contribution to a work. This is often, in my opinion, to a poem's detriment. Aside from robbing potentially interesting ideas and metaphors of attention (when images are deprived of depth or elaboration by simply attaching an adjective to a noun and moving on), they often fall flat in achieving their objective. A two word image (silver fish, loud thunder, echoing voice) is often, though not always, flat out boring.

Hence in my own work I try to minimize, or at least moderate, my use of adjectives. Perhaps I am misguided.

What do you think?

Vitaly Ana
November 7th, 2012, 08:25 PM
I noticed that on your work Fats. I like the way you, as a writer, do not rely on adjectives. It works well for you.

For others, I think adjectives are alright to use in the process of writing poetry, especially in beginning phases

If one wants to write poetry for fun, they may not choose to take your advice,

but I think serious poets should listen to your wisdom.

November 7th, 2012, 10:47 PM
Noise is an expression of quality, an echo is just physics, the original is an image for us to conjour with; it is not pure, it lacks quality, so we, the reader, ask ourselves "What was it about the voice that marred it?"

NO - You are neither misguided nor ill informed, it is a question of, as are most in poetry, context. All modifiers have their place if they can justify themselves.

November 8th, 2012, 06:16 AM
something I never thought about... before.