Rule One

16 Apr

Now that I’m editing a journal I’m beginning to notice commonalities in the poems we reject.  The simplest mistake I see is the presence of the unutterable phrase.  The phrase that no one in the history of the English language ever has or ever would have said.  The phrase that is not merely semantically questionable, but that if you said it out loud you’d immediately be hauled off to the mad house.  Phrases like:

  • chair is loud
  • wise hair
  • Ambidextrous hunger

Poetry should be composed of organic language.  For this to be the case, phrases like the above must be banished from our compositional repertoires.  While “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” makes for a useful object lesson in syntax vs semantics, it has no place in poetry.  In response to this blight of meaningless phrases, I suggest the one rule of poetic grammar:

  1. All phrases in a poem must be utterable.

All phrases in a poem must be something that could actually be said, out loud, by a person speaking naturally.  They need not necessarily be used that way, but if the phrase is unnatural gibberish, it has no role in poetry.



One Response to “Rule One”


  1. Poetry Workshop: #2 Definition Poems | cricketmuse - April 26, 2013

    […] Rule One ( […]

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