Never Say Suddenly in a Poem

In my poetry class I’ve been taught that there are words one should look on with suspicion when they turned up too often in one’s poems.

In my case, some of these words are: “just,” “only,” “often” and the “somes:” : sometime, somewhere, something, and their opposites, never, nowhere,  nothing. These are substitute words I may use when I can’t be bothered to think about what I’m really trying to say…

Of course, everyone knows what Robert Frost meant when he began a poem with: “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall.”  And of course, there are Stephen Sondheim’s famous words to Bernstein’s music in there song “Somewhere,” from  West Side Story.”

Now, “suddenly” is a word that from Day One, we were told never to use to create suspense unless we absolutely, absolutely had to. And I understand what they mean.

But of course poets will hear such instructions as, well, challenges. Poet Lynn Emanuel titled a collection: “Then, suddenly –“,  ee cummings writes a poem: “Let’s Live Suddenly.” Sharon Olds titles a poem “Suddenly” that begins:

And suddenly, it’s today, it’s this morning
they are putting Ruth into the earth,
her breasts going down, under the hill,
like the moon and sun going down together.

So if you are overtaken by a sudden urge to use the word “suddenly,” just try to use it in a way that it’s not usually used, like the title of the Tennessee William’s play: “Suddenly Last Summer.”

Use it in a poetic way … at a slant.<

One thought on “Never Say Suddenly in a Poem

  1. Great post on the prompt! Now that I’m suddenly not famous after all, I’ve got time to read some poetry books! 😉


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