Perversion & Vitamin Deficiency

He “subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency.”

This line about a newspaper editor from Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game is an example of two things that I think poetry must do: surprise and balance. Though Zafon’s book is a novel, like many novels, it is full of poetic lines . . . and in this case–poetic insight. At the same time, he surprises the reader, he also offers a balance of ideas.

Journalistic style demands an avoidance of posh, of adjectives and adverbs in favor of the clear noun and the serviceable verb, and surprisingly, so does poetry. A weak or beginning poet thinks she has to crowd her lines with descriptive modifiers and phrases.

But just a glimpse at some famous lines of poetry, such as Frost’s “Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow,” shows that nouns reign and verbs are second in command.

So for me, Zafon surprisingly describes poetry when he describes journalism and then gives me a balanced idea of what bad poets suffer from: perversion or vitamin deficiency. I always suspected something similar.


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