©2012 by Jack Remick & Robert J. Ray

This is the first posting in a sequence for Fiction Writers who want to find the poetics of fiction.

Exercise 1. Read each line below aloud. Take your time.
Freedom without discipline is chaos
Energy is language working through you
Patience means killing your ego
Patience and energy equal discipline
Energy and discipline equal power
Power and strength equal grace
Grace is the goal of our writing.

Exercise 2. Copy these lines. Use your hand, your fingers, your wrist, your brain.
Circle the words that repeat. Grab the words. Pull them close.
Slow down. Show some patience. Look at your finger.
Zen Poetics Twists your Finger
This is the Zen of a poem – learn how to wait.
Patience is a finger puzzle – The harder you try to get out of it, the tighter it gets.
Patience is simple. It is the itch under the skin before you know you want to scratch.
The goal of a poem is to find a language that lets the poet transform emotion into image.
But a poem has no language. The poet uses English or Chinese approximates to get to the emotion.
Image is pre-linguistic. Before the image there is emotion.
The emotion comes, then we find language to cover it.
We cover the emotion with image.
Emotion evokes image. Image is covered with language, but language is not the ideal expression for the image. The ideal language of a poem is a scream, a grunt, a howl.
The ideal expression of the image is the single, pure stroke. The single perfect word that evokes the image and the emotion at the same time, in the same breath.

The poet of Beowulf knew that story grows out of images and action. He learned how to compress the line and the image and the action. The poet of Beowulf created a poem that has lasted a thousand years. In Beowulf, the poet uses kennings. A kenning is a metaphor riding a metaphor. For example:

A kenning for battle might be “din of spears” or “arrow storm”.
A kenning for an arrow might be “battle-adder”.
A kenning for the sea might be “whale-road”
A kenning for a knife might be “flesh-fish”

Zen Poetics Connects the Writer to Anglo Saxon and Power

Here is Syd Allan on Beowulf and kennings:

To understand the role of the kenning, one must realise that the compound metaphor is not merely a word substitution. Instead, the kenning frequently represents more than the actual subject of the metaphor itself by implying the potential of the idea or object it describes. In short, the whole of the kenning is greater than the sum of its parts. The resulting construction therefore provides an intimate, contextual detail and a significantly emotional connotation that a less formal metaphor could not accomplish.