Hearing from RK Singh this morning on ADJECTIVES….

Hi Jane, I read your poem with interest. I do not intend to criticize it nor do I want to comment on the poem’s merit. But I want to talk something different, perhaps in continuation of what i had written you earlier. How to revise or edit a poem?
Most of our poet friends spend a lot of energy and time in thinking about good ADJECTIVES. They try to write new phrases. In poetry as well as prose, I have often experienced the writing becoming difficult because the writer uses a lot of colorful, lazy, meaningless adjectives. If an adjective used is concrete and objectively strong, then it is something good. If it helps in making an image, it is very good.
It will be most effective if one could write WITHOUT ADJECTIVES. Adjectives are our enemy number one. The less we use adjectives, the better our expression. After all, it is only our subjectivity that we emphasize through adjectives. If it is used in a poem only once or twice, it remains memorable. For example:

This chilly night
she folds her arms and legs
resting her head
upon the knees and sits
as an island

–R.K.SINGH (First published in Timber Creek Review (USA), Oct 1996)

Ghosts rise to mate
in moonlight tear the tombs
frighten with fingers
rhino horns rock the centre
granite sensation

–R.K.SINGH (First published in SPIN (New Zealand), July 1997)

Let’s try to create images with plain English, using concrete, active verbs, rather than a lot of adjectives. This is what I learnt from my poet professor friend, late Dr Lyle Glazier (of Bennington, Vermont). This is how he had edited/improved my first collection, MY SILENCE.


Hi RK!

Good to hear from you.  As you can see, the Poetry Workshop has taken off, and there are alot more submissions.  We are making our way through all this, and learning as we go.

Adjectives, huh?  Well, I guess you are saying that casting out adjectives makes plain, or exposes the bare bones of a poem, and that has to be good.

“Let’s try to create images with plain English, using concrete, active verbs, rather than a lot of adjectives.”

I’m going to have to think about this, and how it’s applied, but I get a feeling of what you are saying.  We can cover over the entire issue with colorful adjectives, and I have done so before…I think it’s muddled thinking without a real point to the poem. Or so I think it is to me….  I have to think what you are saying on this active verb issue.

Glad you have surfaced because you always have something instructive and good to say on poetry.  And life.

I think what you say about adjectives will be picked up here and discussed.

Thank you, RK!  And powerful imagery in these poems….bare bones, too.

Lady Nyo/Jane


  1. R.K.Singh Says:
    June 15, 2009 at 2:59 pm editBut wherever adjectives appear they are really adding to the noun and used as a means of brevity rather than expansion, description or elaboration as in regular poetry.
    R K

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