Thursday, December 13, 2007

Too much of anything is just enough

Here's my comment on a post by Joannie Stangeland, in which she mentioned how "At the Mighty Tieton LitFuse workshop, Kathleen Flenniken talked about how each line of a poem could (or should) contain a surprise—so that if you looked at that line on your own, even out of context, you would find something new or disturbing or delicious."

My comment:

For a while back in the late nineties, I tried to make EVERY line break in every poem as meaning-laden as possible. Two results:

1) I failed.

2) Even when I came close to succeeding, the frequency of the effect diluted the effect.

So I think Flenniken (or the idea you derived from what she said) is wrong, because if every line contains a surprise, then no line is surprising anymore.

An analogy: if every paragraph in an essay contains a rhetorical question, then the rhetorical effect of the questions will dissipate.

*

CODA: One kudo to anyone who identifies the quotation in the title of this post.

6 comments:

renew said...

Grateful Dead, "I Need A Miracle" (Shakedown Street, 1978); and the line goes "Too much of everything is just enough." Gimme a challenge ;-)

Andrew Shields said...

You of all people (because of Hyper Hamlet) should appreciate the creative distorition of citations! :-)

The best one ever being "The Unwearable Tightness of Jeans."

hebegeebee said...

Reminds me of the last line of Fredy Neptune: "But there's too much in life: you can't describe it."

Anonymous said...

Since this competition appears to be open
to creative distortions, I will (re)submit
this, from Family Circus, January 12, 2007:

Dad: How much ice cream do you want?

Kid: Just a little less than too much!

PS: FC's files are searchable/viewable
at www.familycircus.com

-- dhsh

Andrew Shields said...

Renew was write, actually. Currently Miles's favorite Dead tune.

Ah, Fredy! I shall reread you again someday. Perhaps I shall even teach an entire seminar on you (or on Murray, with Fredy at the center of discussion).

renew said...

Yes, please. (o: