“DON’T USE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS TO PRETIFY YOUR PROSE!” The warning—BOLD & ALL CAPS—is issued at least once, in ever 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 let 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 (and adjectives*) 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.
A sign, at the entrance to the Cooper Hewitt Museum's current exhibition “Design Beyond Vision” (running through Oct. 28th, 2018) caught my attention and caused me to wonder: 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.)
Poetry Challenge #50
Ode for Lonely "Ly"
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?” or “when?” or “Where?” Answer by adding an adverb. Repeat that adverb and ask “how?” Answer with another adverb. Keep repeating this pattern, asking “how?” or “when?” or “where?” 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 my effort:
Set the timer for 7 minutes.
Don’t think about it too much; just do it.
Ode For Lonely "Ly" Playlist:
*Cindy Faughnan 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.
**To paraphrase McArthur and Arnold: “Adjectives! We’ll be back!”