I have dubbed February The Longest Shortest Month of the Year. In 2004, I wrote a poem that encapsulates the feelings I have about what is nearly always my most difficult month:
Like a twitching itch on an unreachable patch
Of flesh, I jerk and spurt through
Twenty-eight days. The sour
Stubborn silence of the soil
Mocks my languish, longing
For the euphoria of Spring still
Far off. By turns soggy
And solid, bewildered by snow,
Then rain, then impossibly amiable
Temperance, the earth bows to the numbing
Power of interminable gray essence.
March on, February. I am already
Out of step.
At the time, I was teaching poetry to three teenaged homeschoolers in a twice-weekly class in which we explored language, verse, rhythm, and practiced reading and writing poetry. I wrote the above poem in response to
an exercise we did where we each brought five beautiful sounding words, and five ugly-sounding words. We were to write a poem or two using the lists either separately or together.
The lists we had to work with were as follows:
Beautiful words: essence, luminescence, cerebral palsy, piano, soil, croissant, tintinnabulations, silence, mystic, acquiesce, sorrow, languish, euphoria, fantasia, sashay, license, luscious.
Ugly words: squelch, intoxicated, confabulation, gulch, kitchen, hack, gawk, puke, sour, ugly, gross, power, gut, rut, turd, scratch, jug.
We talked about auditory combinations that seem to be common in “ugly” words, like the hard “tch” sound, and about how words beginning with “sn” had a sort of slimy, nasal-y sound, as in “snot,” “snitch,” “snooze,” and “snore.” Words thought of as “beautiful” often had the “sh” sound, as well as other continuants, instead of the heavy stops of the “ugly” words.
What are your favorite words to love or hate? Why?