View Full Version : Clichés: yay or nay?

March 30th, 2008, 02:19 PM
Do clichés have a place in your writing? Are they okay if we do something clever with them, or is that the equivalent of falling over stylishly? Should we strive for a fresh approach or should we accept that almost everything is cliché? And does the context play a part?


March 30th, 2008, 02:57 PM
Context, yes, certainly plays a part in the use of cliche images, phrases, lines, whatever.
It's hard to avoid using original phrasework or images as there is nothing that's not been touched on before. The structure and placement of the cliche is vital for it to be pulled off effectively.
Going back to the freeform/form debate, utilising a cliche in freeform is probably going to be easier and more acceptable than in a trad form.
A Sonnet, for example, with lines describing how much someone loves another is most likely going to fall short in the box of originality. Take those same words and jumble them into freeform, and it will most likely be more accessible and not become bombarded with negativity.

Again, there is the issue of how to define cliche, where is the line drawn.

Anyone new to poetry should indeed read as much as possible. In fact, established writers should also read as much as possible, and a much wider variety too. Sticking to one genre will create a template author, thus, a cliche within itself, of itself. Flicking through 'The Rattlebag' or 'Staying Alive' or any other compilation, is a good start for any aspiring writer. There's variety in form, subject and execution. Picking up Cummings, or Bukowski, or Heaney, will, in time, create a carbon copy of said author.
I mean, look at the current flock of published work. How many authors are truely original? Roger Pope? The aforementioned Heaney? Sean O'Brien?? There is little substance but there is a good indication to newbies of the kind of thing that's acceptable nowadays.

Anyway, that's enough for now, may come back with more, bore you to death again:drunk:


ash somers
March 30th, 2008, 03:05 PM
i don't mind well written cliche
look around, it's hard to avoid
so i think it's okay if & when
you know you're doing it
including reasons why

Ilasir Maroa
March 30th, 2008, 07:28 PM
Naturally I have a few cliches in my writing. They can be and are used effectviely by plenty of writers/poets. Not everything is cliche. There are new ideas out there, or at least ones that are uncommon enough as to not yet be cliche.

Yes, context plays a big part. A series of cliches in a poem supposed to be serious is usally awful. A parody or satire can have many, many cliches and still not be dragged down. In the middle, it's mostly how you adress it. Is it expanded upon in an original way? Is it intrgrated into the poem? Does the poem rely on it? Yes is a good answer to the first two, but yes to the last means it's probably not that great. Either way, a case by case basis is usually best.

March 30th, 2008, 09:47 PM
There's somethings far too ingrained in our culture that cannot be said in better words. That inevitably requires a cliche or two.

March 30th, 2008, 10:05 PM
There's somethings far too ingrained in our culture that cannot be said in better words. That inevitably requires a cliche or two.

I second that.

March 31st, 2008, 04:05 PM
I think phrases like "blind as a bad" and "as cold as ice" should always be avoided. They don't really have any place in a poem because 1) they're not the writer's own words and 2) they require very little thought from the author therefore won't get any kind of reaction from the reader.

They're fine for every day use - they get across our point as succinctly as possible and can help to "break the ice" when getting to know people. But in a poem these types of phrases don't work - each word in a poem needs to pull it's weight and these don't add anything fresh or interesting.

What I think is harder to pin down are phrases which you read in a piece of writing and thing "hmm, have I heard that before"? Generally I think that here is where context plays an important part - you'd think that different writers generally use words in their own way and so it's acceptable. However that doesn't mean a writer should be lazy and content with whatever they write - originality is difficult when things have been expressed so many times, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to look at things in a fresh way, does it?

Then there's breathing new life into a cliche, which could be putting a twist on it, making fun of it or just somehow opening the language up in a fresher way. It's the cliches that just sit there that are worrying.

As for an idea for a poem being cliche, I think it's essential that one tries to approach something from a unique angle, whether that be something completely new or playing with a cliched idea. But a poem with a central theme that's cliche doesn't give the reader anything new, and this "freshness" is what poetry is about - revealing something to the reader that perhaps they hadn't previously thought about or which makes them look at something differently.

So yes, I agree that cliches re-contextualised can work really well, but I do think it's slightly dangerous to say "There's somethings far too ingrained in our culture that cannot be said in better words. That inevitably requires a cliche or two." If you're writing about something which you can't seem to be able to do in an interesting way then perhaps you need a new subject matter or a new angle.

Bleh, that's enough for now. :mrgreen:

Olly Buckle
March 31st, 2008, 06:20 PM
So would it be fair to say that there is nothing new under the sun, it's all in the way you tell them because it's not so much what you say as how you say it? Stealing someones clothes can be right as rain as long as you are not dragged along by the coat tails and draw the line somewhere without trying to square the circle?

I would like to apologise now for that.

March 31st, 2008, 06:55 PM
Golly Olly!

:mrgreen: (.. the grinning green guy is happy as a *searches for suitable cliche*)

Linton Robinson
March 31st, 2008, 07:42 PM
They got to be cliches for a reason.

Olly Buckle
April 2nd, 2008, 06:56 AM
Rainhands:- surely it's "as happy as a pig in shit"

April 10th, 2008, 06:40 PM
I think that the Cliche is a vital tool in the writer's toolbox. I also think that those who strive to eliminate cliche have missed a trick, and only do so because that is what they have been taught.

I strongly believe that cliche is a valid device that can and often must be used, but in in certain circumstances. If cliche is the underpinning element of a poem or story, or is used with little or no use of creative imagery, then it is unimaginative and bad.

However, if the cliche is used as a device to parade a notion in front of people, then it takes on an almost iconoclastic image. It's a bit like parading the condemned man before he is hanged. It's a way of highlighting something so that readers understand, almost exactly, what you are talking about.

If you take a cliched image or situation and hold it up for all to see as an illustration of a point, I feel it's a fair device to use. It immediately delivers. For example, one cliched line will not only tell you something obvious, but it also gives an insight into a situation or individual or whatever is being said. To me, highlighting and using the cliche is often the only way to convey that in very few words.

I'm sure that many will disagree, but to me it's a case of reusing an image created by someone else to underline a separate point. The cliche is to the poet what consumer items were to the pop artist, or blues scales are to the modern musician.

April 26th, 2008, 12:25 PM
cliches are old hat ...
well-worn and comfortable
sometimes funny to look at ...
it might not hold water
but if it fits, wear it ...

Dante Newton
January 19th, 2009, 09:09 AM
Being cliche
Is inevitable for
It is not a typical plagiarism.
Whilst being hyperbolic is cliche,
Learning is cliche,
Writing is cliche,
So many repetitions
Coalesce into cliche.
Everything is cliche
Barring it has

January 30th, 2009, 07:20 AM
Sometimes you need cliche's to express your thoughts no matter how frequent it is used by other people.

December 12th, 2009, 01:02 AM
Sometimes a cliché is true. I'll use it if it actually does express well what I want to say, but probably not without some commentary on how cliché that phrase was and why I used it.

May 20th, 2010, 03:08 PM
I try to avoid them at most costs. ( including reading them ) I won't lie. For me they are indication of laziness. If I do use them, I certainly attempt to give them a fresh kick in the pants. Sometimes it can be very hard. Like most I grew up with cliches, ( used as teaching tools to be a productive, and functioning adult lol ) so my speech is infested with them. BUT that doesn't mean I have to carry it into writing. :)