Saturday, 20 October 2012

Telling you what to think

A poetic crime even more evil than using too many abstract nouns is “Telling The Reader What To Think” For example: if I say that sitting next to me is an “old revolting tramp lady” I have given you my judgement about the lady. I have therefore “Told You What To Think”. This is bad. I bet you hate me! However: if I say that sitting next to me is “a lady with a lined face who stinks of piss” I have instead evoked in you the experience of being here, and I am allowing you to think as you please. This is much better. I bet you like me again now. However: It might just possibly be the case that I didn’t tell about the old revolting tramp lady because I wanted you to know about the old revolting tramp lady. Perhaps I told about the old revolting tramp lady because I wanted you to know … about … me. In which case perhaps you had better pause a little bit longer before you come to too many hasty conclusions about what must or must not go into a poem. A worser crime than telling a reader what to think is telling a poem what it is allowed to say.

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