Are You An Antipode?

Hello Dear Readers

Are you as amazed as I am how fast March went by? We’ve come into April and I see that various bloggers are doing daily prompts and writing challenges. There’s a National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMO. (You can see a list of participants HERE.) There’s also an A to Z writing challenge. I’m not sure if there’s an official word list, or you make up your own.

The idea of using a letter a day appeals to me, so I’ll make my start belatedly with the letter A and offer you two words, one useful and one intriguing.

Rye Regular

A delightful addition to a writer’s toolbox! They act like seasoning in writing; a sprinkle here and there brings out the flavour, inviting your senses to take part in the scene. “Snoopy did his happy dance” has much more flavour than “Snoopy danced.”

However, every now and then a reader meets a writer who’s a real AFICIONADO of ADJECTIVES, inclined to add them with a too-liberal hand. Writers need to think of ADJECTIVES as the FIBER in their sentences — and realize that modern readers aren’t beavers. Most of us aren’t willing to take the time to gnaw our way through high-fiber paragraphs. I’m inclined to toss a book after the first few pages if it takes too much chewing.

In the following example, see how using many adjectives slows the action down:

For the tenth time that evening Mother pulled the blue-flowered cotton curtain back and peered through the single-pane, white trimmed window that looked over the grass-bordered gravel road coming toward their home. She saw only the crimson sunset on the horizon, the coral-streaked clouds over-layered by a band of magenta rising into deeper purple. As the dusk settled she scanned the road but saw no sign of the old bay mare and the rough-hewn brown wagon in which Father went to town. With a worried frown she turned away, wiping her flushed, tear-stained cheek on the lacy linen handkerchief, a gift from her own grandma, that she always carried in her pocket. She went back to her tiny ten-by-ten-foot farm kitchen, shadowed now by the dimness of the sunset, and proceeded to deal with the cooling remains of the abundant meal she had so lovingly cooked.

Now, here’s the low-fiber version:
Mother pulled the curtain back and peered through the window for the tenth time that evening, seeing only the sunset on the horizon. No horse and buggy carrying Father home to them. She turned away, wiping her cheek and going back to the kitchen to deal with the food still sitting on the table.

Writing instructors these days are saying: “TAKE OUT all the adjectives and only put back in the ones that are necessary to clarify the picture.” Something to think about.

Rye Regular

This is an old Latin word I came across in my search for intrigue. Are you an ANTIPODE? Or would you call me one?

Whether you’re ANTIPODAL or not depends on which side of the world you’re standing on. According to one source, ANTIPODE literally means “people who have their feet opposite.” That is, people who live on the opposite side of the world so the soles of their feet are pointing in our direction. So as I see it, you Aussies are all antipodes.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the concept had morphed into “something or someone on the opposite side of the world/planet/moon.” Nowadays ANTIPODAL can also mean entirely, or diametrically opposed. These adjectives add a lot more punch than a simple “He’s opposed to your scheme.

The Birch Tree

Tonight my contribution to National Poetry Month will be a verse by one of my favourite poets, Edgar Albert Guest. According to Wiki he was often referred to as “the People’s Poet” and penned some 11,000 verses in his time, most of them upbeat and inspirational.

He wrote lines the common people could understand; his subjects were about home & family,  everyday life, and old-fashioned virtues. He often encouraged readers to be thankful, quit grumbling, and do their best whatever the circumstances —as the following poem illustrates. If Mr Guest sounds overly moralistic at times, we must remember that he lived from 1881-1959, saw the country go through two World Wars as well as the Stock Market crash and the Great Depression. Not an era to wimp out.

The Birch Tree

Out of a jutting rock, wind blown,
a birch tree braves the world alone.
A crevice in the granite first
captured the seed; a wave immersed
that tiny embryo. The sun
warmed it — and thus was life begun.

Scant food the passing breezes give
and yet that tree contrives to live!
Cruel the clutch of granite gray,
yet the brave roots from day to day
into the great stone deeper creep,
a surer hold on life to keep.

Twisted and bent some limbs appear,
but still undaunted year by year
those roots in cheerless channels sunk
courageously support the trunk
and green against the lake and sky,
a birch tree catches every eye!

Man thinks he knows what nature wills.
But much he plants the winter kills,
while far away from human care
and on a cliff by storms swept bare,
denied the commonest of needs,
a birch tree silently succeeds!

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co