Down with cicadas! (and other overused poetic devices)

Today I wish to bring to attention a crime, committed against many a reader, ruthlessly and thoughtlessly.  Consider for a moment the word cicada.  This early fourteenth century word, from the Latin translates to ‘tree cricket’ and has since become an overused literary device.  Why must we rely on such words?  They are cheap thrills that cheat the reader out of an experience.  Yes, we can say “the cicadas sang… etc”  This immediately invokes an image, a sound and a tone.  Now, I’m all for using what words are necessary and no more nor less, however to cheat your reader by pulling on invisible strings is just that.  As a poet, or any writer, it is our responsibility to create, not to recycle.  We must bring the world something new, or offer them a fresh approach.  Who really wants to hear about another summer evening filled with sounds of chirping cicadas?  If you were to twist that image, describe the cicadas, but in a never before seen manner, that creates.  To simply fall upon a word because it has a poetic feel, usually means you’re following in the steps of everyone who came before you.  That isn’t what we’re trying to do though, is it?   We should never cheat our readers out of a good read.  If you want readers, the answer is simple, write better!  Write something new and different!  Everyone writes about cicadas.  No one bothers to write about them without using the word cicada.  I offered a challenge to a few poets, to describe the sound without ever using the word.  The response was impressive.  I would like to share two of the examples offered as submissions for this exercise.  Watch carefully as the images are there, the sights, sounds and smells of the image, without ever using the very word it describes.  Both examples are excerpts from copy-written works.

Example one, a submission by a poet who wished to remain anonymous:

“Melodious symphony,
resplendent song lifts the air
fills my very being
with the sensation of summer
cool air against
the sweat of my brow
their song brings to life
captured still-shots
of memories long lost
Sing sweet, the chorus of youth
of life, of love.”

Example two, submitted by Emerys Watchel

“Fresh tilled earth, with the animated ruckus of grass violinists and flying needles dancing with wet bellied frogs in the cacophonies of sex”

Wonderful work, both of you.  I particularly enjoyed the way both pieces depicted the same image and tone, yet used very different methods and wording to arrive there.  So, shall we all agree that good things happen when we step outside the box?  In this particular case it seems to be a yes!


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