Moving Language Out of The Way

I’m not a fan of  the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ school, but I do like a challenge.

I think as writers we have a duty to challenge ourselves, push ourselves to try new ways of saying new things. This isn’t necessarily about assuming a mask. Or writing about the sky for 23 days.  It might be about opening up in a way you’ve not done so before: being tender if your default is humour, being angry if you write calming images. Or it might be using rhyme or metre where you haven’t before…

My suggestions could go on ad infinitum, only you will know what you’ve tried and what you haven’t.

What I’m trying to get at is how we can throw obstacles in the path we may have trodden smooth over months/years of practice, to make us jump or scuff our shoes or even pull a metaphorical muscle in some way, to say ooweee, or ouch or woah on the page / screen.

The American dramatist, Anna Deavere Smith, was commissioned to write about the LA Riots of 1992, and in wanting to get close to the people of the area, she asked a linguist for ways to listen for character when it breaks through conventional formulas of speech, for the person’s language to get out of the way of what they’re really saying. This side stepping of language, this short-circuiting of experience is one purpose of a poem.

The linguist gave her three questions to ask her interviewees.

When have you come close to death?

When were you accused of something you did not do?

What were the circumstances of your birth?


Try them?

Posted by Sarah, 20th February 2012

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