Friday, 8 October 2010

Looking for clarity.

There is an interesting article in today's Times magazine, 'Arts and Ents'. It is an extract from Stephen Sondheim's book with the very long title - "Finishing the hat; the collected lyrics of Stephen Sondheim (1954-1981) with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges and whines and anecdotes" A high price too (£30)

He sets out the principles of lyric writing as laid down by Strunk and White in "The Elements of Style". Surely these are principles which relate to all poetry writing. Sondheim suggest they should be written in stone; I shall type them out and fix them in a clear place on my notice board and hope - or rather aim - to follow them.

These are the principles:

Content dictates form.
Less is more.
God is in the details.
and all three in the service of CLARITY

I sometimes wish I had reached an age when I could just write what passes for poetry and leave it at that - but I don't seem to have reached that age yet. I am still constantly trying to improve the 'poetry'I write. So henceforth I shall try hard to stick to these rules and see where it gets me!

12 comments:

Poet in Residence said...

Well I don't know, but I suspect Dylan Thomas is turning in his grave.

Elizabeth said...

Good rules for poems
I think I once wrote you June Jordan's questions to ask a poem --which I will now have to look up....
one of them is "Is it a unity"

she was also very fierce about redudancies (and stuff you don't need) here I am being redundant and not precise.....hee hee

even GERUNDS
as in preferring "I slept" over "I was sleeping"
very few INGS allowed ing-slashing highly recommended!

and very few uses of the verb 'to be'

Gerry Snape said...

Weaver...don't put yourself down! the essence of the poet is the agonizing over which word or concept it should be and then letting it live it's own life! You fill all of the criteria..I love your work!!

George said...

Interesting post, Pat. I like Sondheim and see nothing in these rules with which I would disagree.

patteran said...

This should be a sampler on the wall above the desk for us all, Pat.

Elisabeth said...

I'll try to etch these principles into my memory, Weaver. Thanks.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, good principles, Pat.

Heather said...

The trouble is that we are all different and while one writer would be happy trying to follow those rules, admirable though they might be, another would feel strangled by them. Rather like painting, some artists need to be free spirits to express themselves while others strive for perfection in the execution of their work. However, maybe we all need to learn the rules and use them, before we try to be free spirits!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I like so many different kinds of poetry that I fear if you all started following the same rules, it might all start to sound the same.

Dave King said...

Fascinating. I find it's the clash of heart and mind. The emotional load, which the brain knows it should refine and the heart saying: "Oh no, not that bit, leave that alone!" You have to be Seamus Heaney to get them both on board.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Maybe Heather has the answer here - although opinions are so varied - isn't it an interesting subject. We could go on about it for weeks.

Golden West said...

Perhaps better to use these as a guide, rather than hard and fast rules...