Sunday, March 15, 2009

Totally Optional Prompt: Adjectives

Late again! Sorry, TOPers. Weekends at my house have been kind of frantic.

For this week's
Totally Optional
prompt, let's consider adjectives. Many people will tell you that adjectives are bad for poetry, and that you should keep them to a minimum or avoid them altogether. Some say that "concrete" adjectives (eg. green, cold, fast) are OK, but not "abstract" adjectives (majestic, sinister, superb).

I think of adjectives as being like spices. With none whatsoever, the product is bound to seem a little flat. But you choose them with care, such that the flavors enhance one another instead of clashing, or drowning each other out.

Consider Shelley's Ozymandias. What adjectives does he use? Does he use them effectively? Are there any you would take out, or change (bearing in mind that this is a piece of metered poetry)? Then scan down the page to Horace Smith's poem on the same subject, and think it through the same way.

Now... write a poem of your own. Or rewrite one of your own poems. Give careful thought to your use of adjectives. Is each one necessary? Are there alternatives that mean more or less the same thing, but give a different flavor (compare Shelley's "vast" to Smith's "gigantic")?

Come back Wednesday evening and leave us a link!