Wednesday, 10 September 2008

When a (bucket and) spade is not a spade

Left: snow white on pecan pie or Little Egret in the Loughor Estuary?

Unlike fellow blogger and poet, Mistlethrush, home decorating is definitely not my scene. That's not to say, however, that I take no interest in material swatches or paint cards. In the course of my craft class work, I have greatly enjoyed looking at and developing colour schemes for particular projects. I was intrigued, therefore, by an article by Lori Borgman in The News & Observer on the 'poetry' of the extraordinary plethora of names for different shades of paint.

Modern poets try to restrict their use of adjectives for the sake of strength, punch and clarity. Are there times, I wonder, when names like those in the feature (e.g. Southern Pecan Pie, Sand Between Your Toes and Peach Slush, to name but three) are simply too irresistible to pass over?

In a recent draft of a poem as part of a Poetry Prompt Month for Sol Magazine, I found myself struggling to find a suitably dull alternative for the word 'beige'. Some colour names definitely seem to suit their respective shades, rather in the way that there can sometimes be an uncanny resemblance between owners and their pets. I should know about these things: many years ago, my Shetland Sheepdog won a green rosette in an exemption dog show class for coming third in the contest for 'pets who look most like their owners'!


Mistlethrush said...

I think colour can be inspiring. I sometimes give learners colour swatches and ask them to write a few lines about their colour without telling anyone what the colour is. It demonstrates how many associations with colours and how we can bring those associations into our writing. But I tend to agree that using embellished names for colours in writing can be distracting so it's best to stick with standard terms unless there's a good reason not to.

By the way, home decorating isn't really scene - I just get the job because the three burly men I live with can't be bothered!

Rhys said...

Hi Caroline, I discovered your blog via Carol's links - very interesting posts and beautiful photos! I think there s almost a whole dialect connected with home decorating and houses. Especially estate agents! How often have you seen the phrase describing house as much sought after and with development potential ? I think it just means that that the house needs decorating and has a lot of hidden problems to fix! I'm not the most enthusiastic decorator but as Carol says it can be inspiring to add some colour to a house and change a few things around from time to time. I think though we are movng towards minimalist living.

all the best, Rhys (also living in Wales)