There is something about autumn that brings out the poetry in people. When surrounded by such glory and aware that the season soon will give way to winter, a person considers precious and creative thoughts, especially about the fragility of life.
There are two false notions that people have about poetry. One myth is that a poem should be beautiful --“with sunsets, flowers, butterflies, love, and God,” as Lawrence Perrinne stated. The other myth is that a poem must express some lesson or moral instruction. A good poem does have an appealing element, perhaps describing some ordinary object or situation in such a raw or startling way that one visualizes the image, place, season, or event. A good poem also communicates. It tells the reader something important, but the message isn’t always a moral lesson. One good example is Shakespeare’s poem “Winter.” Readers may recognize the first lines, When icicles hang by the wall, /And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,/And Tom bears logs into the hall,/And milk come frozen home in pail./When blood is nipped and ways be foul,/Then nightly sings the staring owl,/Tu-whit, tu-who!
Certainly those words are well chosen, and readers can almost feel how cold that sixteenth-century English winter was. By the same token, Shakespeare’s little poem offers no lesson. In Sound and Sense, Perrinne notes the primary concern of a poem “is not with beauty, not with philosophical truth, not with persuasion, but with experience.” He states, “Art focuses and organizes experience as to give us a better understanding of it.”
Beginning authors generally use too many descriptive elements, especially when writing poetry. I certainly did when I was young. It’s hard to leave out visual details and favorite adjectives, consequently, lines may be technically correct, but often the poems are overwrought and sentimental. It’s a ruthless business, this necessary cutting and pruning of adjectives. Who can resist Thomas Hardy’s long description at the beginning of The Return of the Native. On the other hand, many modern readers don’t like so much description. They prefer to get straight to the conflict and/or plot.
Good writing whether fiction or poetry needs some descriptive vocabulary, but words must be carefully selected. One well-chosen adjective can lead a reader to think of others, and those imagined visuals create pictures that are unique and memorable. Sometimes no adjective is required. Consider, for instance, Edgar Alan Poe. He knew how to use description and create mood. He died in October of 1849, and his epitaph reads, Quoth the Raven, nevermore. It's a simple phrase, yet it resonates.