16.14: Poetic Language

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard

We might begin with description.

Or we might begin by deconstructing the act of describing.

Wait. No, not there.

Let’s jump in AFTER the deconstruction.

Let’s leap beyond a statement of topic, let’s hurdle clear of mundane declarations of the audio file’s length, and together plunge headlong into metaphor, the icy water perhaps calling to mind Archimedes, as we describe our episode (or any other thing) not in terms of its intrinsic attributes, but by taking account of what it has displaced into the spaces it doesn’t occupy.

How long does the displacement remain? How might one apply paint to the emptiness after the thing has left?

What color is silence that follows the end of the episode?

(An end which follows twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds in which the four of us discuss the kinds of words we imagine when we say “poetic language.”)

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Look at this sentence: “It’s a dark, grey winter’s day; there’s a lot of snow on the ground and a cold wind’s blowing.”

Distill this sentence until it feels like a poem to you. Introduce line breaks wherever you like; cut as much as you want until it feels like it’s singing to you.

Then, once you have a compact, dense poem, expand it outwards: can you keep it feeling like a poem while giving it more shape and length?

Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse

3 thoughts on “16.14: Poetic Language”

  1. Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard continued to delve into the depths of poetry, this time exploring the vagaries of poetic language. What do we mean by poetic language? Sushi boats and purple prose? Glancing blows to reality? Beauty without context? Negative space? Word choice, sounds, effects? How about spectra of various kinds, that you can use for your writing? Lots of ideas that you can read about in the transcript now in the archives.

  2. The mention of humor and poetry reminded me of one of my favorite poets who combines the two to great effect, Les Barker. One of the things I really like that he does in some places is use the rhyming nature of the poem to telegraph the punchline just enough ahead that you get the dawning comprehension feeling which nicely enhances the laugh.

    He also has really nice delivery himself and a bunch of recorded albums which are fun to listen to.


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