Poetry Challenge #50

Ode for Lonely -LY

“DON’T USE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS TO PRETTIFY YOUR PROSE!” The warning—BOLD & ALL CAPS—is issued at least once, in every writing class. So much so, that it’s the title of a Writers’ Digest article expounding the excellence of Raymond Carver via his teacher John Gardner’s leaner-is-neater adverb and adjective-free prose.

Following in Carver/Gardner’s footsteps has led us to “cast a suspicious eye on these forms of speech because many times they add little to what is already on the page.” As a result those ly-ending adverbs we once sprinkled throughout our prose as liberally as we sugared our Lucky Charms have been unnecessarily shunned, ignominiously tossed aside, and relegated extremely disposable.

Where have all the adverbs gone? Long time passing . . . What has become of those lowly, loathsome “Ly”s? They are, frankly, lonely.

Hence today’s battle cry and prompt: Down with Understated. Let’s bravely go where no adverb has gone before…(or at least not for a long, long time.)

Let’s write an adverb poem. Begin with the simplest sentence: A subject and a verb. For example: Jack ran. Mary ate. Unicorn flew.

Now ask yourself “how?” Answer by adding an adverb. Repeat that adverb and ask “how?” Answer with another adverb. Keep repeating this pattern, asking “how?” and answering with adverbs, one after the other after the other after the other, until you’ve used all the adverbs you want. Then, bring it to a rousing—or not—finish. As an example, here’s Kelly’s effort:

Ly sat lonely
Dejectedly, roundly, slovenly,
Unsoundly, ashamedly, awkwardly, unconsolably
Day after day in the darkest depths of the keyboard, until . . .
Unabashedly, slap-dashishly, left-handishly I asked “how?”
Look at Ly now!

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

*Kelly Bennett and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge over 850 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole poem in the comments.

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