Almost every writer has this history. We begin writing young, exercising power over our experiences and observations by organizing them and labeling them with language. As a part of this organization, many of us employed poetic language, applying florid descriptions to ordinary or ugly experiences. We masked pain, and hid messages. For some of us, we strategically employed language to house our stories discretely. We painted these word-houses so eloquently that the true stories knelt like buried cement blocks in the deep foundation below the surface.
As a poet, I carry this instinctual desire to poeticize experience. As a result, I often euphemize. I tiptoe around true words, spattering the page with descriptors, anything that points but doesn’t expose. I describe the fluid skin and folds in a man’s private area. I jam-pack my poem with everything but.
But as my poems tuck workshops under their elaborate belts, I learn that being a decent poet requires a strategic balancing of exposure and hints. I discover that I don’t want to write careful, fearful poems. I want to experiment, to just say scrotum when I’m trying to construct a puzzle for readers that I’m too afraid to spell out on the page. I want to reach the level of maturity where I re-examine my motives for concealment.
There are moments when just spelling it out could distract readers in an undesired way. Thus, writers should practice replacing descriptors with the actual object/action/word and vice versa to figure out where exposure and where hinting works in a poem or piece of writing.
Description is such a powerful tool for a writer, but it is possible that description can hold us back. It is poetic and exciting to create a distinct picture, but so often these images are vague. To create successful works of poetry and writing, we must play with our moments of concealing and revealing, and perhaps, more importantly, we should note what we conceal, and what we reveal in our written works and why.