Completely stealing the Throwback Thursday idea from Instagram, which I know nothing about besides that it involves pictures and my wife is obsessed with it, I plan to re-post some of my earliest blogs that you might have missed over the years (yeah, it’s been a couple already).
Originally posted on November 2, 2014, “Reading Between Lucille Clifton’s Lines” is my rant on how diction so often is disregarded when we clearly are judged based on how we write and speak. In analyzing a poem like Clifton’s “The 1st,” I teach the audience a lesson I do with my 7th graders; that is, the total number and the overall complexity of the words is not nearly as important as choosing the right words to convey the appropriate feelings.
What I remember about that day
is boxes stacked across the walk
and couch springs curling through the air
and drawers and tables balanced on the curb
and us, hollering.
leaping up and around
happy to have a playground;
nothing about the emptied rooms
nothing about the emptied family
– “The 1st” by Lucille Clifton
Words are conduits of emotion, allowing speakers to express feelings that supersede even what is written on the paper; these are the connotations, or the meanings that are implicit in the word. It’s the difference between castigate (not to be confused with castrate) and reprimand. While, technically, they have similar denotative meanings and would be considered synonyms of one another, the former is much more forceful than the latter, the equivalent of a slap to the mouth vs. a punch to the face. And that is the effect that words can have.