Monday, 15 March 2010

A Problem Shard

I have a terrible confession.  I was just trolling through my Unfinished Work when I actually found *blushes* the word 'shard'. Worse.  The line went: 'He dozed a little then woke with a shudder, shards of dreams piercing his resolve.'   Aaaaaargh!
What's wrong with that?  You ask.  Well there ARE rules you know!  I feel certain Moptop will have strong opinions about this. Shard is just too 'poetic' and hence frowned on in poetic circles - but it still keeps trying to elbow its way in when you're not paying attention.

You could get away with it in the old days.  Rudyard Kipling  was probably considered very clever when he came up with: 'For heathen heart that puts her trust / In reeking tube and iron shard...'   
But it's attaching the 'shhh... you know what' word to things that aren't actual shards that really rankles with the literati and criterati: 'a single shard of moonlight' may incite 'shard-like anger'.  And the fact that they pop up  everywhere: shards of light, shards of memory, shards of love, contempt, hate, fear and , bizarrely, shards of spring - that must be what I cut my finger on in the garden.
Some CLEVER poets get around this by writing poems about real shards - glass, or fragments of rock or earthenware, bits of old tin can even: '...only he could eyeball an ancient shard of London Lite from / 100 metres in the pitch black'  (closing words of Tube Poem by Archie Thomas).   I was very clever NOT using it in my (ahem, 'award-winning', well, runner-up) poem The world is made of glass.  Because gosh, I wanted to.
Why is it so wrong?  Is it too easy or has it just been used to death, become familiar as a 'poetic' word and therefore contemptible?  Anne Rouse in The Richmond Review  agrees: "...poetic diction has a brief shelf-life; once a word has had currency, it must change itself by ironic or other means, or else risk belatedness and parody."
And so we must desist.  Scour your poetry and prose, strike them out, pick them away like the splinters they are!  Put the shard down and step away from the poem!  And go on - 'fess up.  Have you used it?  Have YOU?

p.s.  I don't normally go back to blogs once they're lit - but I have to add in this link the lovely Moptop just sent me (18 March) to the Joy of Shards website, and the article about use of 'found' objects to create a whole piece of art - and isn't that a little bit like writing, huh?  Enjoy!


  1. Yes, I have. In my nostalgic poem about a temporary ear infection contracted after swimming in the sea at Filey, I used the phrase "shard of herring."

  2. Not sure if I have used it, but I'm thinking of offering it a home somewhere, just out of pity.

  3. Shard appears in one of my novels. as in, ...a shard of earthenware.

    I like my shards. Don't make me take it out. LOL!

  4. I have an illegal pottery shard from the Four Corners Area and I will never write about it, except for here. Please don't persecute or prosecute me.

  5. Do you know, I've never used the word shard in my writing (that I can recall) but I'm bloomin' well going to now.

  6. How many people does it take to repair a window at the Poetry Society?
    Two. One to put the new glass in and one to sweep up the shards.
    Shakespeare writes about the "shard-born beetle." I am inclined to give him that one. (cf. a beetle's wing-case.)

  7. Moptop - that cannot be true... can it?
    Maria - that one's allowed
    Kass - keep it to your self!
    Karen - are you SURE one didn't sneak in when you weren't looking

  8. My new novel is called 'Shard'. Mind you, it was meant to be 'Shared', and all about a group of people who were nice to each other and swapped possessions, but when I realised I'd made the typo, I had to change the plot to be about people who stabbed each other with bits of glass. It meant tweaking the dialogue something rotten, I'm telling you.

  9. Hey, BB, I've got you a present ...


    Moptop x

  10. Fabulous, Moptop. In another life I'd have been an artist, and I LOVE Gaudi! Have added the link to the end of my blog and am going to follow the Joy of Shards blog too. It seems we are all officially embracing the shard (OW!!) and taking it to our hearts (OW! again)