intentionally left blank

Wondering what to write – and, indeed, wondering whether I actually would manage to get whatever I wrote posted as the phone company have let me down – I remembered the “Thing That Must Not Happen” as described in Dorothy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise:

Now, when you see in a newspaper a blank white space, bearing the legend: “THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR SO-AND-SO LTD.,” it may mean nothing very much to you, but to those who know anything of the working of advertising agencies, those words carry the ultimate, ignominious brand of incompetency and failure. So-and-so’s agents have fallen down on their job; nothing can be alleged in mitigation. It is the Thing That Must Not Happen.

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not nice

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post inspired by the words “poems are hard”, which appeared on a local pub chalkboard. It’s not just the poems themselves that are hard, though: it’s even hard to get people to agree on what poetry is.

Some people think that poetry should deal with the big issues of Life, Love and Death, others that it should be all kittens and flowers, sweetness and light; some think it should make us look at familiar things and occurrences as if they were new; others that it should make the personal universal; some think it should have structure and be carefully crafted, others that it should rhyme, others that it should be written “from the heart” and therefore anything goes.
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clichés and coincidences

Novice poets are frequently warned about clichés; sometimes, though, it’s hard to know exactly what the people doing the warning have in mind. Is a cliché the same as an idiom? Is it just a common collocation of words? Can a single word be a cliché?

(In answer to that last question, I’ve posted several times in the past on the subject of “forbidden words” in poetry.)

The thing about clichés is that they mean the writer hasn’t done more than scratch the surface. And for poetry that matters a lot more than for some other types of writing.
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round in circles

If you ask for advice about writing a presentation, one recommendation is likely to come up time and again:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.

This three-part cyclical format is far more likely to get your message through to your audience than a simple linear thread.

I’ve long been an advocate of the idea of poetry as “the art of patterning”, but the more I think about it, the more I see that patterns play a part in effective communication in general, not just poetry.
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roost, rooster, roostest

I first came across the word “palimpsest” years ago, when I was training to teach English as a foreign language: in one of the classes we were given a list of words that we were not expected to know and asked to chat with a partner and guess their meanings.

Presumably, the idea was to simulate the stress suffered by the students we would encounter once we qualified, but, of course, our situation was vastly different as we were all native speakers and there was really no great pressure to get the answers right, anyway.
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neigh-saying

This early in the year it probably behooves me to be positive, but it’s been a bit of a grey day and I’m saddled with updating the blog, although I’m bridling at the thought.

The big hitch is that my head seems to be mane-ly stuffed with sawdust – the ideas are hardly jockeying for position in the race to be written. Indeed, progress has completely stalled for the last few hours and I’m beginning to think wild horses couldn’t drag a blog post out of me today.
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hazy thoughts

Just that: “hazy thoughts” and not many words to go with them.

(If you want some more words, I suggest you go back and read a much earlier post – from February 2011 – also with the title hazy thoughts, where I ponder the concepts of mist, fog and heat haze, and how both weather and the words we use for it have personal connotations.)