Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Green of Canterbury

I am green with envy. In fact I am so green with envy that it’s a wonder the Other Half hasn’t planted me in the new bits of garden we have clawed back by removing the two-foot-thick hedge between us and next door. (This has added something like 15% to the width of the garden) She has been having great fun moving things (all the shrubs are in the wrong place, now, stranded in mid-bed) and buying things with garden tokens carefully saved since Christmas.
But it’s not the garden I’m green with envy over, it’s a book. One of those books you wish you’d written yourself and are sick with envy that somebody else wrote instead.

I spent four years (sitting in an English classroom (not continuously, obviously, they did let me out to eat and go to the odd other lesson) looking at a quote from Coleridge about the difference between prose and poetry:

Prose – words in their best order
Poetry – the best words in the best order

Well, the author of the book I’m currently reading is both poet and novelist and it shows. His prose is most definitely the best words in the best order – you just wouldn’t want to change a single one.

What’s the book? I’m not telling you yet. I’m going to wait til I’ve finished it and do a proper paean of praise review then. But reading has slowed to bedtime only at the moment as I try and keep my mind on the WIP – no breakfast reading, no lunchtime reading as I forge on, so this lovely book is being read an hour at a time, which means about forty pages as I keep going back and re-reading beautiful paragraphs, or just a perfectly-turned sentence.

I’m halfway through, so expect a review a the weekend.

By the way, what do people think about the poetry/prose distinction made by S T Coleridge?

9 comments:

PATRICIA DEBNEY said...

Hmmm...as a writer of both as well, I think the distinctions aren't at word level really -- more at movement and narrative level? After all, there are poets with looser language styles (though I'm of the spare persuasion, me) just as there are prose writers with extremely 'poetic' or economical styles...

And the quote...For me, the prose bit (which I think is lesser known anyway?) is a sort of cop out. The poetry bit feels right. How's that?

I need to go out in the sun now.

Alis said...

Hi Patricia! That all sounds eminently sensible.
By the way, fingers are crossed here for your little cat - we nearly lost ours a couple of weekends ago but some IV antibiotics and rehydration worked wonders! Hope they can sort out the red blood cell conundrum...

PATRICIA DEBNEY said...

Thanks Alis, for all. Yes, poor Tilly. In the best case, it's still going to be a lengthy recovery. A kitten! But good to hear it can work out fairly directly. What was up with yours?

Juxtabook said...

Hello, I hope you don't mind but I have tagged you - see here http://juxtabook.typepad.com/books/2008/05/tagged.html.

If you don't like being tagged please ignore it. I thought I would tag blogger that I didn't know for a change!

KAREN said...

I've probably mentioned it before, but I recently read Resistance, by Owen Sheers, and thought his writing was greatly enhanced by him being a poet.

2KoP said...

Since Coleridge was a poet, perhaps this quote involved a bit of self aggrandizement. In light of the prose/poetry controversy raised, what do you make of this other Coleridge quote? "Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain."

Alis said...

Karen - guess what? The mystery book is Resistance! review going up later today, all being well with the wip.

Alis said...

juxtabook - thanks for the tag, I did this one a couple of weeks ago here http://hawkinsbizarre.blogspot.com/2008/04/tagged.html

Alis said...

Hi 2Kop - thanks for stopping by. Really liking your blog by the way - I just had to check it out, didn't I?
This other Coleridge quote is interesting, isn't it? Reminds me of what us communication therapists tell teachers constantly - new idea, simple language; if you want to teach complex language structures, use simple ideas. Not so sure about it in a writing context, I think you may just have given me a theme for a future blog post! (Hope that'll make you want to keep reading...)