Is the word 'soul' meaningless in poetry?

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Thread: Is the word 'soul' meaningless in poetry?

  1. #1

    Is the word 'soul' meaningless in poetry?

    When using the word 'soul' in poetry is its use abstract and meaningless? As a poet, what are you trying to convey?

    The reason I pose the question is that I picked up on TL Murphy's comment in relation to the use of the word soul in poetry. Rather than derail critique on a poem I've posted here for further discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    There’s that word “soul” again. Do you know how many poems contain the word “soul”? At last count it was 14,362,952. Yours makes it 14,362,953. Not a number that stands out has unique. And what is a soul, anyway? Where is it? And what does it do? Does it eat? Does it bleed? Can someone get a soul transplant? I’ve been looking for my soul my entire life and I can’t find it. I think my self is as close as I’m going to get.

    ’Soul’, like love, existence, awesome... is so abstract that it’s really meaningless when it comes to poetry. You can’t point to a soul. No one knows what a soul is and you can’t feel your soul. Whatever you’re feeling when you think you’re feeling your soul is an emotion of some kind. Try to show that emotion in concrete terms in the poem. It’s far more poetic than saying ‘soul’. Abstract language in poetry is lazy writing. It bypasses imagery and relies on vague notions to substitute for immediate experience.

    ’Spiders’ is good. In this poem, ‘head’ would be a much stronger word than ‘soul’. It gives location and there is even a strong emotional recognition that comes with the image of ‘spiders in your head’. Everyone knows what it means. You can almost feel it. It fits with the existential angst of the poem. There is no such recognition with the term ‘spiders in your soul’.

    TL's comment made me stop and reconsider using soul. What are your views?

    Thanks, TL.

    The issue is not about cliche's. It's about abstract vs. concrete language. Mind is almost as abstract as soul in that the mind is a "concept" as opposed to a thing. The best poetry creates images which the reader can experience. There is no image that can be formed around the word "mind", or "soul". It's a broad term for something fuzzy. "Spiders in my soup" would be an even stronger image, in that, stepping outside the lineal progression of the poem, the reader is encouraged to make leaps of association which lead to a broader emotional experience.
    Last edited by PiP; August 15th, 2018 at 10:24 PM.
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  2. #2
    Soul is a word i use with it's meaning but it stems from my Catholic upbringing and I don't reckon there is a soul for me it's a descriptive word with no substance but loads of poetic uses...
    The only one who can heal you is you.

  3. #3
    Soul is the incorporeal essence that raises gooseflesh...The unheard, unheeded symphony of the written word that screams from the deepest recesses of an artist's creative process. The belief in the impossible, hope in the face of bleak and bitter truths. Themes, eternal and universal, that traverse languages and time. Fluid and mercurial, it is the seat of emotions and instincts. Primal and precious it is the greatest nonquantifiable element in the human condition.

    Psychology classifies those without this quality as sociopaths and psychopaths because they do not have the capacity to comprehend the extremes of highs and lows that encompass the vital essence of what is preceived as 'soul.'

    - D.

  4. #4
    i never use that word but I'm not against it
    Last edited by Kevin; November 2nd, 2017 at 11:37 PM.

  5. #5
    When the bottoms of my shoes seek redemption through prayer while eating Southern cooking... with gospel music in the background.
    You can never hate something so thoroughly as that which destroys what you love, and who is more guilty of this crime than the stranger who was once a lover?

  6. #6
    Well, something like "soul music." Speaking to a practitioner of same it does have meaning. The word won't have the same meaning to everyone, to some it has no meaning at all. I do think, lot of a lot of words it's overused - and in poetry it's way overused. I'm not opposed to it like Kevin, but we poets would do well to think of different words to express ourselves.
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  7. #7
    It doesn't matter how often a particular word is used. Soul, love, whatever. What really matters is the surrounding context. For a great majority of poems you'd probably find these words are used as part of cliche, therein lies the actual problem. The writer, given time, could find a way to break out of the cliche or present that 'abstract' word in a way that the reader knows what the writer is trying to show them.

    Assuming this is in the religious context of the soul, just because something is transcendental in nature or abstract, it shouldn't mean that it's not worth using.

    So if the reader doesn't instantly know how to process the word in a meaningful way, it shouldn't really matter, assuming the poem is attempting to make them think. It's like using terms specific to a subject a reader might not necessarily be acquainted with. In a world where we're reading poetry on the internet, a reader can research, think and come to conclusions using that same tool. Though I'm starting to dip into another matter there.
    Last edited by Thaumiel; November 3rd, 2017 at 01:40 AM.

  8. #8

    Is the word 'soul' meaningless in poetry?

    Iím not against the word either, however I donít recall ever using it and I think a big reason why so many of us recoil a little to words like that is fairly simple: They arenít words.

    Okay, so obviously they are words in the sense they contain vowels and consonants, but they have no fixed meaning. These words become largely decorative in a non theological context. I call them ďspanglesĒ. They are nice sounding and quite romantic in association, but they actually mean nothing.

    When we say ďsoulĒ we usually mean it as a placeholder for some variety of immaterial life force, the exact nature of which is entirely up to the imagination. Sometimes itís an aura. Sometimes itís a kind of pretty ghost. Usually itís neither. And thatís fine. The problem is how to use this to explain what the writer means. And thatís where we have problems.

    Generally speaking I am opposed to any word that requires a limitless quantity of other words to explain it and still does not pinpoint a specific meaning.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #9

    Is the word 'soul' meaningless in poetry?

    I think thereís a really good debate to be had as to why we as humans need to resort to supernatural stuff like ďsoulsĒ when we have the real, unquestionable Ďmagicí that is the human brain, personality and intellect.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    Soul, soul sister, soul brother, soul food, soul-ger...soul is a word some wish they understood, some get it, some don't and some won't, sometimes the soul is a matter of faith, a belief, and sometimes the soul is revealed... simply, whether you believe in a soul, having a soul or being a soul, clearly it's personal...agree or disagree, understand don't understand but the right to use the word soul and dictates of a creative source should be respected as with all things.

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