Poetry Writing

Olivia Rodrigo in an article by Ben Henry, BuzzFeed News.

I read this quote from Rodrigo defending her use of describing a “blonde girl” (when really, the girl in question, was a brunette) in her song, and immediately, her words resonated with me.

As a poet, I tend to get specific. I say an ex-lover’s eyes sparkled like jade with the rings of Saturn orbiting her pupil. I describe the way he smelled like piney marijuana and patchouli when he danced with me. I might say another’s name tasted like taking a bite of a red apple in autumn but later, all I could taste was the scorch of burnt ash.

So I understand the need to get descriptive, but as a fiction author, I also know it is frowned on to give a laundry list of description: “He was 5’7″ with a close-cropped beard and eyes that glimmered like blue topaz whenever he saw her. He had a freckle underneath his eye that lined up with a freckle she had underneath her eye, so when they kissed, their freckles exchanged intimate greetings as well. He wore oversized dress shirts with the cuffs hanging over his small hands. His hands were stained with tobacco and always moving with a nervous, frenetic energy. When he smiled, she could see his imperfect teeth, but it was a genuine smile. He weighed around one-hundred-and-sixty pounds and was self-conscious of the hair on his stomach.”

…did you enjoy reading all of that?

I tried my best to make it interesting, but let’s be honest – that’s a lot of detail.

So, an author might pick and choose so her audience doesn’t feel alienated from her. While a fiction author has the luxury of using more words, it doesn’t mean a pile-up of details forced down her readers’ throats.

That being said, a poet wants to create a specific person but still leave the details a bit hazy, so when you’ve finished reading, you can tell yourself that the poem was about you or your ex-girlfriend or your fiancé or your next door neighbor or your grandpa who died eleven-and-a-half years ago.

Also, like Rodrigo touched on, the drama can take away the song or poem’s impact because everyone is analyzing it, waiting for reactions, and caught up in the scandal. I prefer amalgamations of people or details that aren’t really details like some of what I’ve written above.

Just my thoughts.

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