Saturday, April 18, 2009


I've just read a really interesting essay by James Longenbach about a tiny little word most of us probably think we know all about, but as is usually the case in writing and particularly poetry, there is much more to it than we think. I won't go into all the clever quotes and beautifully constructed arguments he used and just dumb it down in a couple of paragraphs.

He basically points out that the word 'or' is incredibly powerful in poetry, it (much more so than 'and', 'but' and 'so') represent the true nature of the human mind. Our thoughts are muddy, self-doubting switch between things. He argues 'and' implies causality, a definte connection between things, tells the reader what to think. This affects me, because I tend to use or alot. Damien (my supervisor) mentioned it the other day as a possible tic of mine. So, do I use 'or' too much? Do I use it in the wrong way? Should I use it more?

After reading this essay I think I use it in a clunky way. Longenbach gives an example of a guy called Oggen(?) who uses 'or' alot and the images/ideas kind of build on each other in natural, inclusive kind of way, like 'money or the gold' not 'money or the bag'. There is that seperation in logical philosphy of the exclusive 'or' from the inclusive 'and/or'. The inclusive one is more useful in poetry I think; it could be either thing, but it could also be both. In the past I think I've tended to compare two things that are worlds apart and this jumps the reader out, they are forced to choose. It's that state of not quite knowing, but at the same time becoming clearer that I want to acheive. A bruise is like bell or a wineglass or wine spilled.

So in that way, I think I can turn a tic into a feature. There is talk about these things called tics and I'm starting to think they are bad habits, more than tics. Doing the same thing over and over isn't necessarily bad as long as you do it fucking well.

Shit, that was a boring topic for non-writers. Sorry. I promise next time I'll talk about sex or Britney Spears or dropping things out of windows.

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