On Added Words

Please see “About” for notes on semi-procedural composition.

It has been remarked by readers that I sometimes add words other than prepositions, articles, pronouns, or conjunctions to my compositions, and this is true. I sometimes “cheat” and toss a few common words into the salad. I want to comment on these additions in general.

I think of language as an impersonal record of its history of personal usages. We come to words already occupied, as I think Volosinov said. They are collective entities not our own, and we somehow make them our own as we try to make them say what we mean. And of course no word ever exists in isolation but comes confounded with other words by association, grammar, cliché, habit, and mishearing. We personalize our words by our use of all of these, but especially by the intonations with which our voice impels them. So I would like to connect the added words to the idea of voice and intonation, but not necessarily in the sense that these additions make any of the words “my own” or subject to my intention; they are added, or add themselves, in the interest of conversational tone–which is the sort of tone I often want to hear in these poems.

There are examples in the last poem I posted here, [21701 – 21800]. Setting aside the addition or modification of verbs (is, will) as a technical subject to be addressed later, you might be able to hear how the adjective “old” of “old coot” and the imperative “never” in “never inflate” add conversational tone. Here there is some voice talking: since no one would think of saying coot unless he meant an old coot, all very clichéd and everyday. So here the everyday is made to invade and otherwise occupy the relatively more rare register of words otherwise present. The addition of “never” as an imperative makes explicit the dialogical presence of interlocutors.

In short, I will add words whenever I mean give a conversational flow to, or merely want to hear a conversation tone in, a poem or section of a poem but can’t see another way to do it.

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One thought on “On Added Words

  1. Pingback: Filling in the Accidental Gaps | art in short bursts

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