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The Trouble with Verbs / 30 May 2012

I am prejudiced against verbs. I use nondescript ones like 'do' or 'have' or 'make', which shrug their shoulders and lean their backs against trees. They stand immobile in a foliage of nouns. I use passive tenses, putting my verbs in tight skirts and holding them in awkward positions. I leave my sentences like soggy mattresses, sagging round their weak verbs.

 What do verbs do anyway, that's so very bad? Nuzzle and kick? Rustle amongst dead leaves? Overturn soil? Grind their teeth in bed?

 A verb can move a poem on to somewhere I had not intended to take it. A verb might chop through my forest of ideals and subtleties. There might not even be a poem anymore. There might be pure action, an enacted passion. Who knows what a freed verb might make me do. A verb is a naked thing, its self written in its face. Where's to hide when a verb shines through a clear-lit sentence?

 I have a pack of unfree verbs struggling unexpressed under my poems' surfaces. They burn each other out in an exhausting push-and-pull. Adjectives duck and find dark corners in which to flourish unchecked. I look to the sky for an ungrounded image to float by like a helium balloon.

 There is a natural ecology of the sentence, which my caging of verbs has disturbed. Should I let my poems be flooded with eager strong nose-twitching verbs? Would there be still room, in the order of things, for the-words-which-dream in their pool with uncertain edges?


Nicole Fordham Hodges


Keywords: arts and health,burn-out,chronic fatigue syndrome,creative writing,ecology,m.e.,poetry,verbs