17 August 2010

In prose these days, the style is to be plain.
Use common words; be forthright and succinct;
Avoid formality; use active voice:
In short, say what you mean and nothing more.
These rules apply whatever you may write,
To traffic signs and novels just the same.
And in return for hewing to these rules,
The writer gets free rein, a blank white box
In which to dump his brain without a care
For form or structure. Sonnets? Thank you, no,
Though every now and then we condescend
To post a wry haiku on someone's Wall.
We'll count, it's fun and shows how smart we are.
But from restrictions richness sometimes comes,
Or thoughtfulness, or creativity,
Or beauty. Or mere elegance of form,
If all the other virtues of our words
Should come to nothing.
Perhaps we set our words too many tasks?
We have to write so many words each day
Each word must be disposable and cheap,
Like coffee filters (this the most polite
Of several metaphors that spring to mind)?
The style is just a moral cop-out, then,
To make a virtue of our verbal cheapness?
Our age lacks all ambition. When we make
a simple thing, we make it quick and plain,
and if it works, we're pleased. Is that the way?
These explanations miss the mark, I think.
I don't know how it happened. But it's dumb.
Good music isn't formless and austere.
Good writing doesn't have to be that way.
If fail we must then let us fail in ways
No self-respecting writer fails these days
And striving, let us win what gains we might
By doing something hard each time we write.

1 comment:

Alan said...

I tried to read and follow along, but there were too many words. ;)

It's beautiful. I'd love to know how your mind works someday.