BANNED WORDS-by Peerless

Peerless, my poetry-writing group, is having a discussion on banned words. Ariel, always so knowledgeable, quoted Bill Greenwell saying never to use the word SHARDS. Jean, our follow-up expert, has given us four sites which agree (or not) with Bill:

One Night Stanzas
Magma Poetry
Poets On Fire Forums
Bill Posters

Some of the banned words shine: glimmer, golden, shimmer. Some are tactile: flame, clutching, grass. Others present pictures: twilight, mist, leaf. Make a list of the words that you might ban. I am loath to look at my poems now; banned words will be everywhere.

Wish I had been in on the discussion (turned out to be a hot debate over tea). Perhaps I’ll get some comments from a Peerless Poet or two. Do they have banned words? Are other poets who read this website/blog concerned with the topic? write this has a list of words numbering 99 that “shall be banned from poetry (an evolving list).”

One word missing from the list above, one that Greenwell bans, is soul. In the poetry competition for Northern California that the National League of American Pen Women sponsors each year, I just won second place. I used the word three times in “Chair by the Window.” As I deposited $50 in my bank, this swayed me, I’m sure, to move to the “no banned words” side.

Here is a poem by Jean Lin. I think it belongs right here in this blog.

At the poetry workshop,
a woman arches her finely tweezed brows,
and states emphatically,
she hates sentimentality in poetry.
She especially dislikes
the use of the words gather and stars.

I immediately want to write a poem
using those two words
in a totally unsentimental way.

The stars gather as if to assassinate the night,
one begins.
The gathering stars foretold the coming of Armageddon,
predicts another.
When stars gather, love’s falsehood shines bright.
sounds a third.

I love stars and the word stars.
For that matter,
I love sentimentality
Every so often
I want to wallow in pure bathos.

Turn on a Lassie rerun,
watch Audrey Hepburn kiss
George Peppard in the rain.
Sing songs from Oklahoma
to my glowering, unappreciative cat,
the sullen emperor of the kitchen.

Wrap myself in my grandmother’s afghan
sit under the evening sky
watch stars gather
and write.


6 comments on “BANNED WORDS-by Peerless

  1. m a. savage says:

    I ban heart soul beautoful and melt. For starters. Could not do without stars. Great going jean

  2. Abbie Taylor says:

    I had never heard of such a thing until now. When I started reading this, I thought you were talking about banned four-letter swear words, but the words you mention are definitely not swear words. In fact, these are good words used to elicit effective imagery. Although this may be a humorous topic for some, I think it’s ridiculous to even think of banning any words from poetry. Poets should feel free to write whatever words they choose, and if a reader doesn’t like it, that’s the reader’s problem.

    Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

  3. m a savage says:

    I forgot about passionate. And i know already i misspelled in my original comment

  4. Anne says:

    Ours for sixty thousand years,
    Beyond the shimmer of the universe,
    Like dew on leaves at twilight, they glimmer.
    Words flame and part the mist.
    We clutch them
    These golden trophies that refuse to be banned.

  5. Nancy L. Meyer says:

    great poem Jean full of the rebellious energy so many of us suppress. Jeffry Levine at doesn’t talk about banned words but does remind us that adverbs and adjectives are “not your friends”; we must earn them if we use them at all. Also mannerisims–do we have particular words we use all the time–Jane Hirshfield in her talk for Poetry Center San Jose said she keeps using the verb”:shoulders” . I looked at a MS of mine and found under–in titles, phrases, Undertones, Under the Mailbox. I think of these as my unconscious speaking to me so worthy of considering what I’m really saying to myself as well as editing for greater clarity of meaning. Nancy Meyer

  6. […] BANNED WORDS-by Peerless « Mary Lou TaylorOct 18, 2011 … Peerless, my poetry-writing group, is having a discussion on banned words. … Perhaps I’ll get some comments from a Peerless Poet or two. […]

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