Words that have been employed by folks to describe my writing "style". Sometimes, I've used them myself, as I struggle to sum up my artistic aesthetic or approach to literature (or whatever the hell you want to call it).
I confess: description bores me silly. Reading it, writing it, watching it...too many passages about rolling hills and pretty scenery, or offering the fine details of women's garments in the 17th century and I'm outta there.
My last full length novel (The Last Hunt, a tale set in the Old West) was only 216 pages long. It's a work of historical fiction, but rather than opting for plumping out the narrative with all manner of sub-plots and brushes with famous figures of the era, I stuck with the essential story, the scenery mere set dressing, the narrative and conflicts between the characters ensuring everything moved along at breakneck speed. Away with the long-winded asides about the endless frontier, meditations on America's manifest destiny and the toll that would take on indigenous people, the environment, etc.
Perhaps I was more inspired by western movies, masterful yarns tautly told by auteurs like Sam Peckinpah, Budd Boetticher, John Ford, Howard Hawks and Anthony Mann (among others). I'm a connoisseur of the genre and always impressed by how quickly the audience is immersed in the action. No explanations or backstories required. Exposition? Ha! Not when you've got only 94 minutes to kill a bunch of bad guys, thwart an Indian uprising, save the daughter of a priggish Army colonel who bears you an old grudge and...right, you get the point.
And now my latest two books, collections of verse and prose poems...well, you can't get much more pared down than when dealing with poetry. Every breath counts. Each volume collects more than 20 years' worth of material and I'm immensely pleased by how well everything stands up. New & Selected Poems and Stromata: Prose Works are short, sharp books; the enormous efforts I make to account for each syllable present in every line--not a single misplaced note; nothing must detract from the beauty of the overall song being sung.
Tired of overlong, needlessly padded tomes that strain your forearms and cause the critical, reasoning portions of your brain to shrink and atrophy? Maybe it's time you slimmed down a little, went on a word diet. Dispense with all that fat. Choose something of a slimmer cut--healthy, nutritious...and won't leave you feeling bloated and useless in the morning.
Thick barreled befitting small clumsy fingers
grimly shaping consecutive rows of letters
extra marks for keeping between the lines
bent studious anticipating lifetime habits
in thrall of shrill supervisors
documenting every shortcoming
critical of the slightest fault
laboring with little hope of reward
succeeding without getting ahead
ancient before their time
March 1, 2013
Causes Cliff Burns Supports
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Community Radio