The Emporium Gazette
Issue 37 -- May 2002

Poetry World ~ Concise Word Play
by Bob Nailor

Word play. Painting with words. Exotic illusion. These are things the poet has been doing since the first rhyme was created. Of course, the pictographs by Ogg on the cavern walls don't really count!

The only difference between what the poet brings into existence and the author composes is simply the space used. In the least amount of words, the poem exudes the essence of what is being rendered and bear to fulfillment a reader's satisfaction.

Therefore, a poet chooses his/her words carefully and wisely to generate the images desired. Of course, if the poem rhymes, word choice is even more selective.

An author of a story can meander down the channels of your mind giving you images and emotions with paragraphs and pages of words. He can use a whole page just to establish the weather conditions of the setting. A poet must concisely convey it in a line or two.

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered, weak and weary,
~ Edgar Allan Poe

An excellent example that concisely portrays the time, weather, what the person is doing and health.

It was a dark and stormy night - Okay, Edward Bulwer-Lytton (or the Peanuts character, Snoopy) probably is not the best example, but I'm sure that you know what I mean. A writer can expound at great length regarding what Mr. Poe established in eleven words.

Most poetry attempts to tell a story in the briefest of terms, whether it be humorous, serious, thoughtful, fantastical, political, scientific, and the list goes on. Poetry consumes the spectrum of possible genres.

Still, the poet also has the ability to create wonderful illusions and play with the words to excite the reader's imagination. Think back on some of the poetry you've read and perhaps you'll remember a phrase that stirred your fancy. I remember one that I thought was extremely beautiful, but all I can recall is: the sails unfurled like giant wings ... into the fiery sunset. Having spent many years on the coastlines, strolling the beaches and marinas at sunset, I'm once again transported back when I remember those words.

Poets can have fun with just five lines: the limerick. There's very few readers of a limerick who don't smile. Many times a limerick will have a double meaning, but usually they're just quick, silly rhymes that poke fun at something or are just plain dirty.

I close with the following limerick that combines all the components: word play, humor, a story.

A flea and a fly in a flue
Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
Said the fly, "let us flee!"
"Let us fly!" said the flea.
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
~Ogden Nash

Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at

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