Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reader's Diary #80- Fred Sedgwick: How To Write Poetry (p. 16)

How To Write Poetry is written as a text book. There are exercises spread throughout designed to get the student writing, thinking about word choice, and so forth. I've been doing some of these and I've been enjoying them to some extent (it remains to be seen if they'll improve my writing ability).

In one particular exercise Sedgwick suggests making a list of 6 words that you currently like, and a second list of words you currently dislike. I had a tough time doing this activity, it's not something I've thought about. It was much easier to come up with words I didn't like. For my list, see comments below. Feel free to submit your own.

As Sedgwick goes on to talk about the importance of words, he seems really hung up on etymology - word origins. From the little bit of etymology I've been exposed to, I find it interesting and I can understand how it's become such a hobby for some people. However, I fear Sedgwick overemphasizes its importance in the writing of poems. If the reader is unfamiliar with the etymology of a word, how effective is it? I would suggest that if the word has connotations in the modern world in addition to interesting etymology then it could be a good choice. Readers could get something from the word through its modern implications, and should s/he delve deeper, be rewarded even more. But without the modern connotations, it's probably pointless except to etymologists and cruciverbalists.


John Mutford said...

1. vernacular
2. caesura- I only learned this one recently.
3. fib- I like this one a lot. I like the candy coating it puts on "lie". Plus, it's a pretty cool form poem based on the Fibonacci sequence (which in itself is a nice word).
4. eschew
5. sleeveen
6. yee haw- I just like the pure expression of excitment.


1. Manhood - Mostly due to Auel.
2. Schedule- only when pronounced with "sh" instead of the hard c- how pretentious.
3. prosody
4. Draconian- a friend of mine once made fun of me for using big words then used this word in casual conversation.
5. aeroplane- why is this the "supposed" Canadian spelling of the word? Everyone I know says "airplane"
6. pimp

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Those are some two-dollar words you have there. How do you feel about the CBC pronounciation of "issue" - hard s not sh? Drives my kid crazy.
I'll have to work on my own list.

John Mutford said...

Barbara, I haven't noticed the CBC's pronunciation of "issue", but I'm sure I will now. The way you described it, it reminds me of the Kids In The Hall sketch "Steps" and Riley's (Dave Foley) pronunciation of "issues".

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh that's rich, John! I feel so much better about my day after a good shot of KITH! Thanks.