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The Revealing English Language



1C39E7A6-10CB-4FAC-A21B-33BC8B9EE1F7.jpegRecently our own badger posted a poem in which he used the term "packet of crisps".   Badger is a Welshman living halfway across the world.   We are both English speakers.  But no one here in California would ever think of using the term "packet of crisps".  I got it, even though I would have written "bag of chips".   My granddaughter would have written " a Tacquis bag". {Tacquis are a brand of corn chips. The only kind of chips in her world, peppered with Jalapenos, hot and spicy.}  My grandkids have their own "English" language, don't get me started on that.  And texting, ik i♥️u2 translates, "I know, I love you too."  Did you know there are poems written in emojis?

I just finished binge watching 8 seasons of an Australian TV show.  I loved it; it takes place on a cattle station in the Outback.  Lots of horses and cows and having raised both on a much, much smaller scale, I understood the "cowboy" language, right down to methods for castrating calves.  Australians are English speakers.  My paternal grandfather immigrated to the US from Australia in 1902.  My paternal grandmother used to tell me stories imitating his accent and we would laugh even though, she was originally from Cornwall and had an accent of her own.  I have to admit, it took me a couple of seasons before I figured out some of the words they used on the show.   I had to google some.  And there were times when I simply didn't understand whole sentences because of the heavy accent.  We don't have an accent here in California, 😉.  

The photo is my crazy cat Molly, lying on the couch in my den.  My parents would have called the couch a "Chesterfield".  (I'm guessing that was a popular brand name of couches in their time.)  Some might call it a sofa or lounge.  What is it called in your part of the world?    "Den" is my chosen word for the space that flows off from my kitchen. It is the hub of my home.  It could be called a great room or family room but the area is much more than those two terms imply. It is the core.   den=cave, niche, nook, hollow, lair, study, cell, library, sanctum.   My "den" is an area 14' x 30' with two and a half walls.  It is open to my kitchen and partially open to my living room (front room, parlor} and entryway (foyier}.  It contains a dining table and chairs, hutch, two lounge chairs, a couch, an end table, a 40" TV,  2 bookshelves, and my desk.  From my desk, I can see the Pacific Ocean through a large front window and a forest of Redwoods out my back kitchen window.  It is the opposite of a cave, niche or nook. it is open, expansive and light.  But it is my lair, my sanctum, my "den".  Word choices tell us who, where, when and how we feel..

The words we use tell us much more than the language we speak.  They reveal where we hail from, our age, gender, and era. They also carry our feelings toward the subject we describe.  Dialects, colloquialisms, slang, accents, grammatically correct and incorrect language all expose who we are.  We share our lives through our word choices giving our poetry even deeper meaning than the subject we choose.   Next time you read a poem, you might want to investigate, who is the poet?  What more is this poet telling me?  Or when you are writing, are you sharing yourself in your words or choosing to hide behind the "grammatically correct" word or the universal word?

I have a long list of favorite poets many of whom have influenced my writing.   Near the top is Lucille Clifton, African American poet born 1936-2010.  Her writing set me free to open myself on the page.   Before discovering her writing, I was far more conservative in exposing myself through my work. It is something I still work on.   I relate to Ms. Clifton, woman to woman.  Through her work, I have felt the African American experience more than through any other medium.  Unless you actually are an African American I don't believe you can fully comprehend what it all entails. I have felt it through her work.  Her poems are raw, brave, honest, sometimes humorous and always powerful.   

here rests

my sister Josephine
born july in '29
and dead these 15 years
who carried a book
on every stroll.

when daddy was dying
she left the streets
and moved back home
to tend him.

her pimp came too
her Diamond Dick
and they would take turns

a bible aloud through the house.
when you poem this
and you will she would say
remember the Book of Job.

happy birthday and hope
to you Josephine
one of the easts
most wanted.

may heaven be filled
with literate men
may they bed you
with respect.
           ~~ Lucille Clifton,
              from Mercy. Copyright © 2004                      

I am accused of tending to the past

i am accused of tending to the past
as if i made it,
as if i sculpted it
with my own hands. i did not.
this past was waiting for me
when i came,
a monstrous unnamed baby,
and i with my mother's itch
took it to breast
and named it
she is more human now,
learning languages everyday,
remembering faces, names and dates.                 
when she is strong enough to travel
on her own, beware, she will.
                          ~~Lucille Clifton










Moon Child

whatever slid into my mother's room that
late june night, tapping her great belly,
summoned me out roundheaded and unsmiling.
is this the moon, my father used to grin.
cradling me? it was the moon
but nobody knew it then.

the moon understands dark places.
the moon has secrets of her own.
she holds what light she can.

we girls were ten years old and giggling
in our hand-me-downs. we wanted breasts,
pretended that we had them, tissued
our undershirts. jay johnson is teaching
me to french kiss, ella bragged, who
is teaching you? how do you say; my father?

the moon is queen of everything.
she rules the oceans, rivers, rain.
when I am asked whose tears these are
I always blame the moon.
                             ~~Lucille Clifton






Who is a poet who has influenced you?    How did they reveal themselves through their words?

~~Tinker aka Judi Van Gorder

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Judi, I've been contemplating making on a topic about some of the things you've touched upon in this blog entry.


We share our lives through our word choices giving our poetry even deeper meaning than the subject we choose … Or when you are writing, are you sharing yourself in your words or choosing to hide behind the "grammatically correct" word or the universal word?

While it may be true for many other writers, I can't imagine that a whole lot could be gleaned from my own word choices.  English is such a rich language with an immense vocabulary. Whereas in many foreign languages there may be just one word for "table," in English one could find many words for many different types of tables. I make extensive use of the thesaurus to find very specific words. Of course, when using the thesaurus, it's also good practice to verify common/contextual usage with a dictionary, but in poetry, the dictionary may not the end-all-be-all; there is room for artistic license when it comes to word choices. A poem I love is called "The Astronomers of Mont Blanc" by Edgar Bowers. Dated December 1961, the poem is a metrical poem (a sonnet) in contemporary language. Nevertheless, Bowers' language in this poem has been described as "slightly removed from everyday usage." Perhaps he used what I was taught in high school English to be a valuable tool for good writers: a thesaurus. "Slightly removed from everyday language" -- I find this very exciting!


I have a long list of favorite poets many of whom have influenced my writing.   Near the top is Lucille Clifton, African American poet born 1936-2010.

This is the first I've read from this author. "Here rests," is distinct, very much to my liking. I don't usually care for the omission of capitals while using periods, but I can overlook that in this poem because the poem is that good.1 Thanks for sharing these poems and for this terrific blog entry.



1. One of the topics I was going to make had to do with certain poets who have had immense success on social media, and with subsequent publication, when posting doggerel. I was going to write a negative article about that, about how I believe that anyone can have such success if a celebrity (e.g. a popular musician) plugs his work, but I opted to focus on positives at PMO. I mean, a restaurant could be serving dog food, but if a platinum recording artist gives it four stars on social media, the masses will be clamoring to make reservations and lining up for second helpings. That's how horrible this "poet's," who I have in mind, work is.

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