Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kerry's Wednesday Challenge

"Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody." 
J.D. Salinger ~ Catcher in the Rye

Datura II ~ Dragan Todorovic
Recently, while working on a piece of writing, I found myself stumped because I wanted to include the image of a butterfly.  How could I possible use such a word in a poem without it becoming immediately clichéd?   This issue is very problematic for the modern writer, since there are very few images which have not been used in some form before, so how do we escape the dread cliché?

Cliché is defined by the Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary as

(1)  a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it
(2)  a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
(3)  something that has become overly familiar or commonplace

Origin of the word:

Cliché is borrowed from French. In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

Now, we'll agree that there are few things so poetic in and of themselves than flowers, but the question remains whether we can use them in poetry without the line or figure of speech immediately falling into the category of cliché.  I did a bit of digging (yeah, I know...) to find out how well-known authors or poets have made reference to flowers in original ways.  Allow me to share a few examples with you.

Boter Flowers ~ ULT-gfx Deviantart

“Nature's first green is gold, 

Her hardest hue to hold. 

Her early leaf's a flower; 

But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.”
Robert Frost

Fair enough, the poem is so well-known, it may itself have become a cliché, and I don't dare mention Wordsworth and his Daffodils, no matter how unique either poem may have been when first they were written.  

Here are a few more examples:
Image by Cesar R

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose , or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off...
...I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers...” 

Sonnet XVII Pablo Neruda 

"Look, we don't love like flowers
with only one season behind us; when we love,
a sap older than memory rises in our arms."

Rilke, The Third Elegy from Duino Elegies

"The force that
through the green fuse drives the flower 
Drives my green
age; that blasts the roots of trees 
Is my destroyer. 
And I am dumb to
tell the crooked rose 
My youth is bent by
the same wintry fever."
Dylan Thomas
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne
Write a flowery poem in an un-flowery way:  include at least one reference to flowers,  either literally or metaphorically,  in as non-clichéd a way as possible.
All photos used in this post were sourced HERE


Susie Clevenger said...

Kerry, what beautiful pictures and poems as examples. I wrote this last month, but I think it fits what you asked for. I am guilty of times I must slap my own wrist.

Marian said...

uh oh, i write about flowers all the time, does that mean i'm a big cliche? wah.

Grace said...

Nice post Kerry. I like the examples you gave us.

I will have to think and give this a try, even if late. Also may I suggest that we write something new based on Kerry's prompt? Just an input :-)

Unknown said...

this is quite an interesting post...a great collection of flowers and poems!

My Third Eye

Paul Tobin said...

OK- try this, I just dashed it off


Set on self-replication,
Turned out sexy in the sun,
Insects just you come and have me,
Sticky pollen adds to the fun.
Swallow CO2 in daylight,
Nitrogen fixes in the soil.
Gulping oxygen at midnight
Don't you love them, one and all.

Ok, I think it tends to the doggerel but it was written in 5 minutes and it shows.

I liked the post.

Mary Ann Potter said...

Nice prompt! I took two incidents from awhile back for my poetic offering today.

Mary said...

Still thinking here...hope to come back to it.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Great challenge, kiddo. I shall return!

Kay L. Davies said...

I love the AA Milne quotation, Kerry!
What a fun challenge, too, although I'm not yet sure how I'll do it.

Ostensible Truth said...

very interesting prompt - I too can't read/hear daffodils by Wordsworth without cringing slightly... I think the main problem is that no matter how well thought out the description is they often link it to the typical themes of love, nature etc. so I think people can trap themselves and it's hard to be that innovative within those spheres - I've read quite a few who've linked them with very different ideas, and managed to beat the cliche issue though - one that springs to mind, Bukowski

"We are like roses that have never bothered to bloom when we should have bloomed and it is as if the sun has become disgusted with waiting"

and of course Plath's Tulips, which is a brilliant example of a more alternative approach to them

"The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals,
they are opening like the mouth of some great Africn Cat " - and many more great references.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Thanks for sharing these quotes, OT and they are great examples of unflowery flower metaphors.

I am thrilled with the responses, though regret to say that my own response may be late in coming. I'm dog-tired and heat-exhausted.. and my battery is flat.

Thanks to all who have taken up the challenge.

hedgewitch said...

As always, Kerry, you come up with a splendid challenge. I've posted an older one that I hope fits the bill.

Daydreamertoo said...

Hope what I posted fits the bill. Thanks for such an interesting prompt!

Isadora Gruye said...

flowers >shudders< . I almost posted a photo and link with no poem, but in the spirit of the challenge I put together something sort of inspired. Thanks for taking the time to post this prompt Kerry!

Fireblossom said...

I linked to two short, older pieces.

Margaret said...

This was fun. I had something to attend this evening, but my mind kept wandering to this prompt. ha ha

Short Poems said...

Beautiful post Kerry. The examples you gave us are really useful :)

All the best

Kerry O'Connor said...

Having read all the poems thus far, I can only step up to the podium and say that you all ripped into this challenge in such fine spirit that I'll never overlook a flower in a poem again!
Thank you all for the effort that went into replying to this mid-week prompt.

Kerry O'Connor said...

PS. I still have nothing :(

Admin said...

me and my blogs are following you now..hope to join this meme soon..thanks!

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Ella said...

I love this prompt! I need to try it again, I fear mine still borders on too flowery~