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Although we have discussed this before, I wanted to make it more clear as to the differences between 'show' and 'tell' when it comes to writing poetry.

It has nothing to do with losing your own voice, losing the intended content of your piece or abiding by rules covered in cobwebs and dust.

This is simply a rule to help in making the reader care about what you have written. To 'evoke' an emotion in the reader rather than simply gain their sympathy, empathy or good natured comment.

There is always room for abstraction, but only if done well.

These two below show the difference between show and tell:

'My father likes to play ball' - Tell

'My father threw the ball in the air' - Show

It is a rather basic example but the latter is a more concrete image. The first is a generalisation in which most readers would say, so what?

A very good tool in using this in your writing is to describe one thing by writing about another, I'll just make this up:

'My father was with his ball,
in a way they looked quite similar,
round, hairless and smooth.'

Here you are offering something more concrete, you are provding a description which you can touch and see using your senses, unlike using generalised words such as 'my dad is fat'. Nothing really in that.

With the English language as it is, asking a writer to show is a bit like asking a painter to tell. That is where the difficulty lies in writing in such an art form as poetry.

Our language is designed so that we do not have to carry around with us a dictionary of thousands of words. Everything has a name, a neat little pocket to place it in terms of language. English is the adminsitration centre of our world as we can place everything into a tidy draw.

Poetry is not about offering simple descriptions. It is about imagery and symbolism which when done properly can make you laugh, cry or even fill with anger.

So the obvious point is that as poets, we are trying to get across experience rather than information. My examples are rather basic and only fit into the very simplist definition of show rather than tell.

I hope this was a good introduction.

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

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The following comments are for "Show vs. Tell in Poetry"
by londongrey

Show vs Tell
I always enjoy your information and opinion.
You contibute much to honing craft, and making friends.
I remember comments to me about Haiku "Richmond Impressionism". You started teaching me new things back then. Remember?
It's spring here in Virgina- lots of beauty, but got to watch out for the creepy crawly things that deservedly reside among us as well. (do you see my tongue in my cheek?)

As to this essay, well written, concise, informative.
Poetry is art with words and paper. All writing is, but poetry is a very open form and one that needs more splash than definition.
Nice to see you-

( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: April 22, 2005 )

Alex's much wanted lessons
Not only do I want these sharing pieces of yours because I am learning, but I believe it will pull some of us in tighter to the understanding that we DO all want to better ourselves in any way possible.
To me writing is like painting Alex. So much as you describe here. The showing. So that a reader can visualize what I see when I close my eyes.
Sometimes writers can write in this wonderful way that there is so much in the unsaid that we SEE or feel as well.
Thanks for sharing this and for your comments. You have a good heart and are always willing to critique like a gentleman to help us polish up what we have written.
I appreciate that.

( Posted by: Dareva [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

so true
So true it's not funny. Excellent essay, alex. Good for new writers and for us older ones too because we sometimes forget.

( Posted by: smithy [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

Walk vs. talk

Most of your assertions hold true for most writing, not only poetry.

( Posted by: drsoos [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

Thank you....
Guys for reading and responding.

Dr. Soos you make a very good point, learning about poetry and reading so much good poetry can be beneficial for all writers not just poets.

Thank you

A xxxx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

Yes Alex But

I mean also to say that in many instances, both poetic and non, demonstration trumps explanation- or at the very least augments it.

( Posted by: drsoos [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

I agree...
...totally. For me a good writer picks out the detail in something that as a reader or simply through our everday lives, know it is there but we don't focus on it. All the good writers I can think of in any genre manage to do it and drag the reader in. Like bringing into focus the blurred edges of our vision.

Literary porn I suppose :-P

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: April 23, 2005 )

great advice!
Hi, I'm new here and your essay is the first thing I read. And wow! It really makes sense! "show & tell" ----gotta' remember that! Thanks.


( Posted by: quill [Member] On: April 25, 2005 )

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