So (apparently) binge-listening to Hilary Duff’s new album whilst laying about in my underwear is not an “appropriate” way to spend a Tuesday night. Who knew? But, really, how can I not when her lyrics are just so damn relatable. “If I fall/You better catch me/You’re turning me into confetti.” Haven’t we all felt like the sad janitorial aftermath of a Lakers’ game victory at some point in a relationship? No? Okay.
My point is that while I nostalgically lamented the magnificent (read: borderline horrific) quality of Lizzie McGuire’s pop music career I began to wonder what exactly made it so bad? Was it the generic 4/4 “I’m trying desperately to be edgy” club beats? Was it the cotton candy fluff lyrics like “If heaven is real then how does it dream?” (Good one, Hil.) Was it the fact that I sat in my apartment pantless and alone on a Tuesday night going “UGH, yes! It’s like she’s speaking to my twelve year old soul!”
The answer is yes. All of those things. But really, most especially, the lyrics thing. Which brings me to my actual point: is the word honey really “soo 1999” or is everybody just trying to tell me how to live my life?
A quick internet search or a long conversation with a poet will leave you an ever-growing list of words that are The Devil. This list includes, but unfortunately is not limited to, the words: dream, body, soul, light, darkness, love, honey, bones, blood, blue, green, red, moon, sun – and for the sake of time, let’s just say every other over-used word one might find in a poem. And don’t even get me started on “Poet Voice!” That’s an entire minefield you don’t want to step in.
I’d like to think that our “I’m just, ah, doing it for the experience right now” jobs as poets is to add a little rouge and a feather boa to these strung together sentences and make them sparkle. Okay, fine, we might agree the word “gossamer” can suck it but all I’m saying is that if Terrence Hayes wrote a poem exclusively using the word gossamer? I’d probably sit at home next Tuesday night alone and pantless rethinking all my life choices as I extolled it as the finest piece of poetry this generation. (Or whatever.)
And Okay. Confession time. A couple weeks ago during a feature performance I realized that ALL six or seven poems I’d chosen to read that night had the word “blood” in it. Naturally I felt ashamed and did that thing I do where I hopelessly overshare and then awkwardly watch everyone watch me with mild amusement and/or disinterest.
This is to say that we’re all a little guilty of it. We all have these buzz words that we just can’t help but use – and we all have an opinion on what words belong in the screaming fiery pits of poetry hell. But isn’t that all it is? Just opinions that we don’t have to listen to? Also! Who decides these things!? Is there a secret age-old group of literary editors out there who “poetry police” all submission calls? And who came up with the rule that I can’t use the word honey in a poem? Hm?! I like the word honey! It reminds me of sweet things more often than other sweet things remind me of sweet things! I want to lead a honey revolution! With picket signs that read “Occupy Honey!” I want to write a poem that exclusively uses the word honey! I want to recite it in my Poet Voice, goddamnit! Can’t we all just band together to smash the poetry patriarchy? I volunteer to lead the first wave.
In fact, I’ll offer this for our manifesto:
Your honey is so honeyed it tastes like honey/& honey/honey doesn’t taste as good as the way honey tastes when it’s covered in honey/I am covered in honey/like metaphorical honey all over my honey/oh, honey/you really are my honey/ I bet bees don’t like honey as much as honey likes honey/I wish I were a bee/buzz buzz honey bee/honeyed chicken/honeyed carrots/honeyed wine/honey buns/honey baked ham/there’s so much honey to honey/please symbolically honey all over me/how much honey could honey honey if honey could honey honey/& a honey in the honey is worth twice in the honey/because you are my honey/my only honey/you make me honey/when skies are honey/& I keep honeying your honeyed honey/because honey can never grow on honey.
I really think that’s going places.
What words or phrases do you think need to be banished into the fiery pits of poetry hell? And more importantly, which ones are you guilty of using over and over (and over) again? And perhaps MOST importantly, is there any poem that uses the word ‘moist’ and can we please burn it beneath the heat of a thousand scorching suns?
Because, I’m sorry, that’s just wrong.
Keayva Mitchell is a twenty-two year old currently living in Long Beach, California. Among the many jobs she holds she is an associate editor for a female executives magazine, as well as a sometimes blogger for The Poetry Lab. Her favorite poets include Terrence Hayes, Cristin O’Keefe-Aptowicz, and Rachel McKibbens. She thinks you're cool.