Intellectual Snobbery and the Poetry Police

A while back, I had a run in with the Poetry Police. I got pulled over for excessive adjectives. The officer liked my poem but wrote me a ticket for too many modifiers. He said it was necessary if I wanted to be a serious poet.

Bah! I had to laugh, which confirms that I am not a serious poet, but rather a seriously lighthearted one. In response to my poem, Symphonic Forest, the gentleman wrote:

Essentially, I like this poem. However, it gets bogged down and diluted a bit with the use of too many adjectives. Wordiness might be forgiven, given the nature of a symphonic score in terms of notes. But the thing about telling rather than showing is that it leaves very little space for the reader to expand his/her participation in the art of reading poetry.

The comment itself wasn’t necessarily that bad and I really wasn’t offended. I have received far sharper criticisms of my work than this. Being an avid and dedicated student of everything poetry, I am well aware of the academic, scholarly, or conventional recommendation to eliminate adjectives from prose and poetry, and to use the technique called show, don’t tell. So I knew where he was coming from, but I also knew how such scholarly admonitions are often taken to extremes by overly zealous writers and then misapplied.

So fair enough, I made my response:

Thanks for essentially liking my poem and commenting on it. I disagree with you on the adjectives. The number of all adjectives and adverbs together is 18, and all the nouns (37) and verbs (18) together are 55. Most of the 18 adjectives and adverbs used are specifically needed, such as the numbers and time and place modifiers that clarify and detail information that cannot be shown. However, the gerunds should be eliminated. The rest of the poem is saturated in strong nouns and verbs that more than compensate.

All was fine, until I got a response back from him. He was upset that I thought 18 modifiers to 37 nouns were not excessive. By his standards and those he had learned from the accepted poetry elite, this was still a far too excessive ratio, never mind what the individual poem set out to do.

I then responded:

Who in the world are these people who think that they can set irrefutable standards upon poetry and then declare that their own invented or arrived at standards are the only proper and correct ones for poetry?

Poetry has suffered and fallen out of favor with the people because literary snobbery has railroaded the art and made it untouchable and esoteric. I’m part of a movement of poets and poetry for the people, for those who once again just want to enjoy sounds, language, word-art and word-textures, beats and cadences, rhymes and all that makes poetry great.

We enjoy all poetry—contemporary, modern, experimental, classical and traditional—and we put no constraints on anyone as to what is or is not a proper poem.

Some will say we do a disservice to poetry. I say they do a disservice to poetry by wanting it to conform to their modern expectations. They have turned millions of readers away from the art. People hate poetry because it is not fun, it is difficult, esoteric, cryptic, and out of touch.

We are promoting poetry and the writing arts in English worldwide. We are reaching people—people who love poetry and want to be a part of a poetry movement that demands accessible poetry that is rich and layered but can be understood and enjoyed.

His next response was even more livid, so I decided to be more direct and clear in my response:

The extremism of intellectual snobbery stole the art of poetry away from the people and we are a movement of people taking poetry back as an art form to be shared and enjoyed amongst the people in open forums like it used to be in the ages before it was hijacked. The folks who sat in pubs, clubs and cafés and performed their poetry like we are doing again today did not send it through some literary perfection and acceptance process where it could be signed off by the intellectual elite who were in control of what poetry is or is not supposed to be.

Some of my favorite poems, the most well beloved of ages, widely published and shared around the world and in the highest literary and academic circles, defy and break the modern rules of poetry time and again.

Why? Because what mattered was the heart and presentation of the poem, and if a poem worked with a few extra adjectives, then darn it, it worked, so accept it and enjoy it—quit analyzing it to shreds and making it untouchable to the common man and woman.

Then I got the bright idea of selecting a beloved poet of the recent past, the modern era, and breaking down one of his popular poems into adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs just like I had done to my poem, just to see how well it would match up to the exacting standards of the Poetry Police.

The first well known poem I came across had 14 adjectives and adverbs, 17 nouns, and 14 verbs for a ratio of 14 to 31. The ratio for my poem was 18 to 55. So this modern poet’s ratio was worse than the ratio for my poem, Symphonic Forest.

So who is this supposed miserable poet who defied convention and the Poetry Police by using all this weak and ineffective verbiage in his poem? How can he claim to be a poet? He has not met the rocket science standards of poetry. Surely this is some back alley poem by an illiterate person claiming to be a poet.

What celebrated poem is this? It is, The Back Door.

And who is this celebrated poet?

Born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939, Ted Kooser is one of Nebraska’s most highly regarded poets and a Poet Laureate of the United States. He earned a BS at Iowa State University in 1962 and the MA at the University of Nebraska in 1968. He is the author of ten collections of poetry and winner of the 2001 Nebraska Book Award for poetry. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. His poems appear regularly in textbooks and anthologies currently in use in secondary schools and college classrooms across the country. He has earned too many awards and distinctions to list here and won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He recently taught as a Visiting Professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska — Lincoln.

So it was Ted Kooser, a distinguished scholar of academia itself, who dared to write this poetry that didn’t conform to the extremist’s notions and presumptions of what academia’s standards were supposed to be.

No, it is not academia’s fault that the Poetry Police exist and fight against the art and craft of poetry; it is those who take academia to an extreme that fight against the rest. Ted Kooser was a man considered to be a poet of the people who also achieved high academic and scholarly standards and it didn’t ruin him.

So if you ever run into the Poetry Police and intellectual academic snobbery, remember not to blame all academia for the extremism of a few lest you become a rebel without a cause and find yourself fighting against the art and craft of poetry from the other extreme. *****

by: DE Navarro, © 2014, NavWorks Press. Permission is granted for this essay, Intellectual Snobbery and the Poetry Police, to be copied and posted or published freely anywhere as long as this byline, copyright mark, link, and permission statement are included with the essay.

Poetic Tidbit #1 – Personas

Today, for our first tidbit, I am going to talk about “personas” in poetry.

It is not a good practice for a reader of poetry to assume or think that the ” I ” or “me” in a poem is actually the poet.

Poets are artists who assume personas at times to hold human idiosyncrasies and habits to the light and examine and expose societal or human behaviors, sometimes negative, to shed light on them and offer them for evaluative thinking.

Unfortunately, so many poets do actually write from a real first person perspective as if all their work is a poetic memoir, diary or journal of their own lives and thoughts from their personal perspective that the fact and reality of “personas” often gets obfuscated.

Notice that when you read a good textual commentary on poetry, the commentator often refers to the individual speaking in the poem as “the speaker.” They do not ever attribute it to being the poet themselves lest they make a false assumption and blur the lines of these personas. If the speaker is the poet, that may become clear, but this way the commentator avoids mischaracterizing the poem.

A “persona” may be gender specific, an historic character, an inanimate object, an animal, whatever perspective the poet wishes to assume. Poets are innovative artists and many have within their skill-set the ability to assume a persona and change poetic voice accordingly.

Poets and writers can manipulate voice in their writing for a specific purpose and so may invent a persona. If, as a poet, I assume the character of a soldier in the American Revolution and write a poem from that perspective, the key to making it work is to have the voice come across as natural and credible.

When assuming a persona, a poet will depart from their natural personal poetic voice to write a poem “in character” and from the “character’s perspective” to handle poetic truths of life and society in a unique and powerful way. The character may be fictional, but the truths and observations are real.


Still, I Go

The island of love’s tree
awaits the hour of alcohol
earth and moon aside
by the pillar of sanity’s bride
see them reach for my heart
you know I’ll go.

In the poem above I, DE Navarro, am NOT the speaker. The speaker is a fictitious character, a human being in this situation, revealing how they think, their attitude, and what drives them to this decision.

It is offered as a “slice” of life and society so the reader may view it in a personal perspective and way unlike they may have done so before. It humanizes the situation a bit more, and puts it on a “slide” to be viewed through a projector or scope or held up to the sun.

This series was started 10 months ago in my We Write Poetry™ Wordshop™ Group forum on LinkedIn. I am going to post it and archive it here. This is the first one. Many more will follow.

Please enjoy and discuss and add your thoughts and some poems of your own in the comments below.

Fairy Glen Conwy River Gorge, North Wales, UK
Fairy Glen Conwy River Gorge North Wales

Exposé at the Cliché Café

Hello folks. This is a reprint of an article I wrote in 2009. This topic recently came up in the We Write Poetry™ Forum that I manage and moderate on LinkedIn. So I thought, why not, I might as well post it. Obviously being 8 years old, I have grown and learned and changed, so not every iota of this article is exactly the perfect representation of the view I hold today, but it is close enough as to almost be indiscernible. Besides, today, if I rewrote it, I would just add more to it and make it even stronger. Enjoy!

Exposé at the Cliché Café

Let us open that can of worms called cliché.

Can of worms?” Hey—that IS a cliché.

Oh, the experts all say (all the ones I know) “Never use cliché.”


What if the cliché embraces the exact allusive image or concept I am after?

What if the point of my poem involves playing with cliché?

Who made cliché taboo and what authority did they have to do it?

Here’s the real problem (and it is the same problem with those that whine about rhyming too)—they see a few poor attempts at using cliché or rhyming—many young or new poets are not skilled enough to use them forcefully or powerfully, and so they make a BLANKET rule—avoid cliché or avoid rhyming “because they are traditional, not fresh, unoriginal, and amateurish.”

Oh, I know, the definition of the word itself means a trite, stereotyped expression that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse. But what some call cliché, others call wise sayings, quips, proverbs, and mores. They have become a permanent part of a living language.

What they should say is avoid the “amateurish use of cliché and rhyming.” In other words, just get good at it—and to get good at it means you have to use it and lay those wonderful eggs before people—learn—and move on.

I absolutely LOVE the effective use of both cliché and rhyming.  When done masterfully or effectively they both can add power to poetry.

If I come across a cliché that DETRACTS from a poem, then I may note that to the author—but I often stop to evaluate WHY the cliché was used—and does it have a purpose or effect.

To me a cliché is really just another word in our language. Just like an individual word it has a universally accepted meaning, but instead it is a phrase with a universally accepted meaning.

I am not afraid to use the word jungle just because it has been used so often before, or divine.

Oh, don’t use the word divine in your poem—it is overused and will make you an instant amateur.  See—isn’t that ridiculous to think that we would avoid certain words because they are too popular or too familiar?

So what about cliché then? It carries universally accepted meaning that maybe I want to conjure, allude to, and add to the stream of thought in my poem.

If I want to use it I WILL.  I just better do a damn good job of it.

Here’s an example where I monopolize on a cliché for a poem:


He saw the clouds
and took his umbrella
on his sleepy carousel life
round and round
up and down
eighty floors high
to eradicate his stack of papers
before his noon expedition
to the seething jungle below.

©2007-2009 NavWorks Press and DE Navarro. All rights reserved.

We have heard the cliché where corporate life is compared to a jungle—or the hustle and bustle of city life in all its elements is compared to a jungle.

By simply referring to the city below as the “seething jungle below”, my allusion captures all that the cliché embodies and is already familiar in the minds of my readers so I do not have to add any further words to say what I want to say.

Think about it, I don’t have to talk about all the wheeling and dealing, the gangs and drug lords, the business moguls and corporate lords, the hustle and bustle of cars, trains, trucks, planes, and every other moving object on wheels, the masses of people pouring across every street, the noises of brakes squealing, horns blowing, sirens wailing, jets swooshing, and on and on, that make up the “jungle” of the city.

Since the cliché is universally accepted, it seamlessly added all this additional meaning and contributed to the poem while preserving an incredible economy of words because I did not have to invent some other comparison here to bring all that to bear.  In this case, it is slipped into the poem in a very smooth manner that is really hardly noticeable—it fit seamlessly.

However, if I stated somewhere in the poem that the “city is like a concrete jungle,” can you see how much weaker that would be, over worn, unoriginal, and yet I’d be presenting it like it was some new revelation—now that’s amateurish.

See the difference.  My poem above made it a foregone conclusion that the reader is already familiar with this metaphor, and in a passing way made allusion to it and thus it carried freshness and power in it.  It compacted language and added to the poem.

So don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

A cliché in time may save nine lines of rhyme (or something like that).

I’ll get off my sudsy oratorical platform now. Hey wasn’t that fresh and new and clean—I didn’t say “soapbox.”  Hmmm.  Not really. Avoiding cliché may lead to some egg being laid like a “sudsy oratorical platform” instead of a “soapbox.” Okay, that was a stretch, I know rephrasing a cliché in an alternate way is NOT what they mean by fresh and new, but it was fun anyway.

I’m always teaching balance. Bad cliché and bad rhyming are bad—so avoid them.

But there is such a thing as powerful cliché and powerful rhyming—and we’ll never get there if we think there is a rule that we can’t use cliché and rhyming because it is trite and traditional.

So fellow derelicts of poetic expression—give me your best cliché and show me how it can be done, how it can be integrated into a poem, how it can be a powerful allusion.


If you are interested in checking out my poetry, which has been well-spoken of and well reviewed by many, please visit the Curio. Why not give it a shot, it might surprise you how well I connect with my readers and the enjoyment they get out of my work.

P.S. I do not use a whole hell of a lot of cliché in my work, by the way, just certain few poems in which the purpose is well thought through and chosen by deliberation. Thanks.

The Facilitated Publishing Model

NWP Poetry Pub Packages Banner

Poetry Publication

A publishing model designed by a poet for poets.

At NavWorks Press, we take our press imprint and reputation seriously, so we will not publish substandard work. We will, however, go to great lengths to collaborate with poets to prepare their work to be publication ready. If we do accept your work, we offer you publication under a facilitated publishing model where you choose a specific package and thereby become a partner in the publication of your work.

As a poet, I understand the poetry market and the difficulties that face many poets. I know that most of the self-publishing models are not cost-effective for poets and that many of the self-publishers are not tailoring their packages to the needs of poets. So I have designed and implemented a new concept called the facilitated publishing model to help poets get their work into print at minimal costs to them, certainly far better than the self-publishing models you will find out there.

As the facilitating publisher, we are offering a unique partnership that is unlike self-publishers or full traditional publishers. First, unlike a self-publisher, we are not looking to make an upfront profit off you as a client in publishing your work and then making a hefty profit off of everything you buy. We are looking for worthy work by poets who want to participate in a publishing model that is good for you as a poet and us as the publisher.

Second, unlike a full traditional publisher, we are not willing to shoulder the burden and risk of the full costs of publishing poetry at our expense. I’ll be very honest with you here; very few publishers of poetry make any money on their actual book projects. The only reason they publish poetry, aside from promoting and supporting the art, is that they receive donations from fine arts patrons and donors for their work. So the publication of poetry is viewed as mostly a philan-thropic endeavor. We are looking for worthy work by poets who want to participate in a publishing model that is good for you as a poet and us as the publisher. We will facilitate getting your publishable work into print by supplying our expertise, our resources, and our professional services at near break-even rates.

The most notable benefit to you in this model is that it is not self-publishing for two main reasons. First, you will need to submit your work to NavWorks Press just as you would to any publisher and we need to accept your work. We will only publish that which we are willing to put our name and reputation behind. Second, if we accept your work, you will be published under an actual press imprint, NavWorks Press, where your work was accepted based on its merit and our willingness to publish it.

Another great benefit to you is that you will not be dealing with a layered corporation that does business according to top-down policies which emphasize the bottom line and often lead to inflexibility. You will be working with a real individual or individuals who have a passion for poetry and the writing arts and for helping good poets get published in today’s world. Most of the other publishers and self-publishing houses are top-down multi-layered organizations that are not concerned with the poet’s needs as an individual. You usually end up working with an individual that is a hired representative who has no authority to modify packages or services or consider your individual needs and desires.

Other benefits to you include that you will receive higher royalties for any books sold through us, and you will be able to order as many books as you like at any time at publisher’s wholesale price (typically $3.50 for 50 page soft-cover) to sell yourself for FULL royalties. So if you sell your book at $9.50 retail, you make $6 per book. Also, you will make all typical royalties from other sellers, which is usually minuscule and part of what led me on a quest to find a better publication model for poets. Under this model, you can sell books and I will sell books that will make you far greater royalties than you will find anywhere else, and yet your book will still be available to order at any bookstore worldwide.

Your time as a poet is here.

Contact DE Navarro, NavWorks Press, at for submission guidelines and more information on our publication packages.


Poetry Reading: Isadore Greely’s Place, by DE Navarro

Check it out, I think you will enjoy.

Source: Poetry Reading: Isadore Greely’s Place, by DE Navarro

“Intellectual Snobbery and the Poetry Police” by DENavarro

A timeless classic.  Please excuse the formatting issues. It is a WordPress “reblog” and apparently they have not worked out their internal glitches.

K Morris - Poet

Intellectual Snobbery and the Poetry Police by DENavarro

A while back, I had a run in with the Poetry Police. I got pulled over for excessive adjectives. The officer liked my poem but wrote me a ticket for too
many modifiers. He said it was necessary if I wanted to be a serious poet.

Bah! I had to laugh, which confirms that I am not a serious poet, but rather a seriously lighthearted one. In response to my poem, Symphonic Forest, the
gentleman wrote:

Essentially, I like this poem. However, it gets bogged down and diluted a bit with the use of too many adjectives. Wordiness might be forgiven, given the
nature of a symphonic score in terms of notes. But the thing about telling rather than showing is that it leaves very little space for the reader to expand
his/her participation in the art of reading poetry.

The comment…

View original post 1,177 more words

The Logical Poem-Story

Eons ago in a fathomless destitute crime-ridden inner city
far, far away-Chicago-we met in a vacant lot overgrown
with the most wretched of devil weeds-gnarled, tangled,
twisted stems like steel cables intertwined, seized ankles,
ripped shoes off mid-stride, threw children to the ground;

grasshoppers the size of finger-fat tootsie rolls hugged
tall stalks, shifted around away from intruders, jumped
blind in free flight withersoever they would go to smack
into whatever they hit and to cling with sticky barbed legs
wherever they landed, my nose and ears included.

We discussed the greater matters of life as most kids do,
like where you might come out if you dug a hole through
the earth-Paul said China, I shook my head no; Bob said
China, Christy said it, my brother said it, Cathy said it,
all said China-mad that I shook my head no. Ran home
whining-he won’t believe us-got the adults involved.

Mrs. Shuzack said it, my mom even dared to say it, and
there in the midst of the black cracked asphalt street,
John’s dad shook a rough knuckled finger in my face,
his sad eyes strained behind hedge row brows, and
declared boldly before all-they come out in China.

Then some school teachers strolling home agreed, like
buzzing bees together, that if we dug a hole through the
earth, we’d come out in China; a few park officials, sharp
and smart in their steam-starch-pressed green uniforms
bearing pointed polished badges, nodded to me to give it
up, as if that were the noble or honorable thing to do.

Someone finally asked me why I shook my head no, so
I smiled and said, “Don’t you know, if you dig a hole
through the earth, you come to the molten core and die.”

That was the end of that.

■ ~ ■ ~ ■

Published in Dropping Ants into Poems, NavWorks Press, 2017
Available worldwide and at reduced price at the Curio Bookstore
ISBN: 9781366548467

Recovered Account

I have finally just recovered this account. The old email was tied to an old site and it was a bear to re-establish one with the same name so that I could receive a reset email from this host.

I will be reformatting this blog and making it more active.

Thank you for your patience. A poem for you:

In Time

Now here within
nowhere without
all throughout outer
set pace for inner

in your face in this
passes now without a
what’s done we can’t

No sense to chase the chime
presence known in present time.

© 2017 DE Navarro

Word List Prompt Dare

Come on, I DARE YOU to take it on. 

Write me a poem, or two, or ten

using every word in the “word list”

below – use any tense or form of

the words you like.


If you need to look up any of the

wordsto refresh yourself on their

meanings, GO HERE.


Who’s got the gumption to meet this

challenge?  Let me see the poems.











Push yourself to come up with something totally unique and different from your normal style.


It will be interesting to see how varied the poems will be while using the same list.


Go all out – show us your verve and your nerve.


New challenge coming soon.

I Am A River: DE Navarro


That’s it.

One word.

How does it make you feel?

What are your thoughts about it?

What does it mean to you?

Now write a poem using the word resurgence in it.

CHALLENGE: Write and post poems that use the word resurgence in them — any style, any length, any way you want to get it out.

Post below.

View original post

Resurgence Poetry Challenge


That’s it.

One word.

How does it make you feel?

What are your thoughts about it?

What does it mean to you?

Now write a poem using the word resurgence in it.

CHALLENGE: Write and post poems that use the word resurgence in them — any style, any length, any way you want to get it out.

Post below.


This is the location for the We Write Poetry Interactive Forum.  Come here to read the poetic challenges, prompts, suggestions, and other fun stuff, and then post your comments and poetry for interaction in the community.  Get responses on your work and generously give responses to others.