I love a lot of words. Wheelbarrows and corn cribs spill out words I know. I love words. I used to pull out words to craft poems frequently. It’s not like checking a book out of the public library and having to return it. They’re mine, but they’re everyone’s words. They float about our heads and ankles, running into us, pardoning themselves, and then heading out. Sometimes they get in. I have some favorite words—dollop, Mississippi (who doesn’t remember learning to spell it into a rhymed recital when we were young.) Two words, that’s it? you say. Nope. I have hundreds, thousands more. Let that be a mystery for you to contemplate.
I love to say words incorrectly, just for fun. While I was in the classroom, teaching wordsmithing and gorgeous literature that others had written for us, I’d often congratulate a student’s correct answer with “Grape juice” instead of “Great job.” It was a quirk they sort of got used to. Hysterical instead of historical. Smidgen. Sometimes they just fall out of my head and onto paper or out of my mouth. Why not try to use all the words we’ve collected over the years?
Now and again, when I feel British, I’ll think “splendid” instead of “great.” When we were touring Ireland a few years ago, our Irish bus driver would point at something and say, “just there” instead of the American “over there.” I like that. I brought it back with me as a souvenir. I fancy myself a Southern Belle in a former life. Often, while teaching, I’d speak with a southern accent during an entire period. It drove some students to distraction, mystified some, irritated others, and absorbed and entertained still others. I didn’t really do it for them. I love a southern accent. My favorite heroine is Scarlett O’Hara. Fiddledeedee, why not speak with southern flair?
I haven’t written poetry for some time, but I must. I love writing poetry. It requires more accuracy in word choice, a sparseness, a clarity, that other kinds of writing don’t demand and speaking certainly doesn’t entertain.
Writing poetry is rather like growing a garden. It’s never quite finished. I pick the extra words out, like weeds sprouting up. I water them so they’ll grow, laboring over the one or two words that just don’t fit where I’ve planted them. I find, late June or early July, bare spots after everything has matured. I must plant more, dig for more words to plant in my poem. Ah, but then, the bouquet, the aroma, the beauty of color arrives. I put a title on my poem, smooth down the last stragglers and present it to a crisp white page. I love a well-crafted garden, but I also love the ones that are more fun, less groomed. I like wild gardens, wind-fall gardens. Words that are wind-falls are fun, too. Either way, I cherish all kinds of gardens, whether of flowers or words.
Words keep me company. They travel with me. They educate me. I have jars and jars, journals and journals, lists and lists of words. One can never have too many, you know.