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I originally posted this in the Writing Forums, but nobody seemed interested so I thought people here would find it interesting.

I have noticed sometimes that pieces tend to fail when they hold too many absract words within. That in an attempt to describe emotion the piece fails to evoke emotion in a reader.

'Abstract' - A mental representation or concept that isolates and generalises an aspect or quality of an object or of a group of experiences, from which relationships may be or are perceived. - Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary.

'Abstraction' - 1. State of being absracted....2. Seperation, removal, theft.... - Webster's Comprhensive Dictionary.

We all know that poetry is about the detail, the ability to observe and render on various levels. Language by its nature in our everyday use categorises and generalises what we see in front of us. Poetry has to do more than this.

We can all write about love, hate, anger, heaven, hell etc. But what sets poetry apart is that it can evoke these things in a reader without actually mentioning them. By the use of concrete images, things that we can touch, smell and taste. The difference between 'show' and 'tell'.

I personally started writing at Lit.Org first of all, I then joined a poetry workshop in which discussions were held which have led to my firm belief that abstractions have little place in poetry.

So e can write about life, we can write about love, hate, despair, all of which are abstract notions that show nothing, now take this piece:

"I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank,
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might have sunk and died.

But it was
Cold in that water!
It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And I thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

But it was
High up there!
It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love-
But for livin' I was born.

Though you may here me holler,
And you may see me cry-
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine!
Fine as wine!
Life is fine!

by Langston Hughes

This is a perfect example of how to 'evoke' emotion in the reader without actually mentioning any emotion. It is a rather basic example but clearly displays the writers talent for 'showing' through situations the emotions of the narrator.

Ask not what you can do to poetry, but what poetry can do to you.

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The following comments are for "Abstracts in Poetry"
by londongrey

Great Alex,
and I am one for any lessons like you have of this to share with us. Thank you for thinking of us.
SO SO nice to come across some more positive influences in this life of Lit.

handsome, great to see you

Dar ;) (wink) (hug)

( Posted by: Dareva [Member] On: April 14, 2005 )

Lilia and Dar..
Thank you guys, this has become quite important to me, I don't why but it has influenced my taste alot.

Oh well. I have more to say though!!!

Lots of lurve

Alex xxx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 15, 2005 )

Thank you for your kind words. I love Langston Hughes aswell, he always manages to get me!!!

Perhaps we could do collab in which we try to represent abstracts with concrete imagery without actually mentioning them, like poetic letters or something, what do you think!?!

( Posted by: Londongrey [Member] On: April 17, 2005 )

Funny You Should Mention
Alex ~ It's lovely to read your writing, again.

And it's funny because I was just musing about the level of show vs. tell in my own work the other day. I think you're right that mainaining a certain level of concrete imagery is important, especially within poetry which tends to be such a concise, tight form (as compared to say short stories or essays, for example). When every word, every linking image needs to count, giving the reader something concrete and familair to latch onto can make the difference between forming a memorable reading moment and crafting a pretty literary quagmire (in my humble opinion).

And yet... wouldn't you say that abstraction is more than just mentioning an emotion specifically? Poetry tends toward the abstract, in a sense, simply because it is not a story, an essay, or a blunt snapshot. For instance, there's a lovely poem I stumbled across recently by a poet named Kristy Bowen which is definitely abstract, yet has more show than tell:

midnight pastoral

Suppose we could describe it: the bird collector
with his binoculars and net gone home to his wife

in her blue-lit kitchen. The black pot boiling over on the stove
and the goats outside rubbing their bodies against the fence.

Who knows what he cages or what survives the night.
A girl in a white dress arcs toward the dark horizon, the world so

small you could climb out of it. So small you could pocket
the moon with a cupped palm. Suppose we could describe

her movement through bluestem and aster, or describe dress,
or girl, or even sky. That beautiful black climbing.

According to the birds. According to the goats.

I tend to think of the duality of abstract/concrete as two sides of a tapestry in progress -- the abstract is the messy side where you can see the knots and the work; the concrete is the top-side where the intended pattern is clearly visible. I think the best poetry dances intricately between both sides of that fabric, leaving us with a fuller knowledge, not just of the thing we're describing as poets, but its shadow, too, its underbelly, and its secret name.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: April 20, 2005 )

My last comment...
Hi Hazel,

It is good to hear your voice I mean, read your words again, hehe.

You have given me so much to think about, the depth of your thought on this subject was much needed.

This shall be my lasrt post here, I have decided to move on from this and all associated forums. Just a bit sick of the ego thing going on.

Take care xxx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 20, 2005 )


Am interesting write, and it's not just with emmotions, but getting people to feel the emmotion of the piece without stating it, is the artistry behind poetry.

I have been using irony a lot lately to try to get the same effect but sometimes I worry in case people take me literally!

In regard to your 'ego' comment I am a great beleiver in not letting other people control me and make me 'feel' the way thay want me to (except in poetry that is) and I certainly would miss you on this site.

However, if the site became too unpleasant to visit I would get less frequent in my visits untill I again felt comfortable here. It is people like you that make me feel comfortable here!

Stiff upper lip?


( Posted by: ivordavies [Member] On: April 20, 2005 )

Alex, so long till soon again
Alex, my two cents. Ups and downs are part of life. I try to ignore, as much as possible, that which is unpleasant. Don't get me wrong, I can be a Doberman when need be.
I try to get my heart across through my poetry.
I try to be a friend.
Many here are wise enough to recognize crap and beauty. Your contribution has been beautiful. Peace to ya baby. Please stay, or at least check in now and then.
Don't get caught up honey. It isn't a prerequisite.
I watch "All My Children" (US soap-opera) Get my daily fill of drama and try to hum through all else...
Many need a little diversity (?).
Me, pain killers are a nice option... mellow... mostly.
Love seeing you. Don't be a stanger-

( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: April 20, 2005 )

I wish.....
...I was different but I am not. I always write things when I am angry and regret saying them five minutes after. Then have to go through the immature process of explaining myself like some attention seeking little idiot.

I have left the writing forums and the adverse group. I left the first because it wasn't challenging enough, and I have left the adverse group Lilia because I tried to lighten things up and it didn't work, I just got left with sarcasm.

I'm staying on this forum though because it is challenging and the writers are amazing.

I just get fed up sometimes we all do. Ivor and Lilia you are always the one to drag me down by the ankles. If I have another queeny fit please feel free to salp in the face and tell me to act my age.

Alex xxx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

Alex take a midol LOL
and a great big hug from me. YOU can NOT go, don't ever let anything, anyone bully you just because your ideas are different.....also, don't ever feel you HAVE to explain yourself.
The best way not to submit something you are regretting after is open a fresh note pad, mark it "to the a hole I am facing, either over there or in the mirror for today was not the best day because......."
One strong piece of advice I have and I know you didn't ask me for my 2 Loonies (which is 2 Canadian dollars...ahem hehehe): When you feel something is digging at you, picking your tender hear and sweet mind, take slow breaths and tell yourself "I am ME, I am worth the stay regardless". Honey, this is your home with many of us who cherish and admire you. You are a teacher as well, like many of us, I have learned and WANT to keep learning from you.
We lost our Claire, Carolyn (cjheirly; sp may be wrong), then Windchime and numerous others.
I believe I told Lilia to tell you I order you to stay because you are a strong link in this chain of writers.
Never LET anyone make you feel you are lower than them in any way. Sure we are never perfect and I do not profess to be such and I KNOW that many of us do not either.
There are many new writers too and I hope we can all be a great writing community. Read my little poem, inspired by the people who have felt they had to leave because of others who trample on their's called I Am Not...not the best writing but it I like it, wrote it this morning around 2 a.m.
Any way sugar, you hang tough and KNOW you have Lilia and myself, who in age could be your great granny,,,,so you BEST listen to your Elders dear.

Glad you are staying, just want to cement you in this place for certain........

love, admiration and salutations,
BE the BEST you can be,
for it is YOU that counts.

Darlene xo

( Posted by: dareva [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

Lilia Dareva.....
Sorry *looks at feet and shuffles*

Dareva I need more than midol, horse tranquilizer?

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

Thanks for sharing this Alex. The example illustrates the idea perfectly. This is exactly the type of article a writer's site like this needs more of. Good work.

( Posted by: Smithy [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

Well Alex
Glad you're sticking around here, though I hope you don't mind the occasional sarcasm (hey, if you're allowed to be you, then I'm allowed to be me! lol).

Look what a cool, supportive bunch of people we have at this site! Just look! Despite our occasional squabbles and outbursts, it's all about the love here.

Or maybe that's the horse tranks speaking -- I was way ahead of you on that one . . .

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

Smithy, Viper
Thank you for your words.

Sometimes it is almost unimaginable how long we have all known each other, kinda scary isn't it?

Hugs for Michael

A xxx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 21, 2005 )

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