Jennifer enjoys a range of writing styles from varied backgrounds. Some have particularly stood out for her in her exploration. Here are just a few.
The well-known Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore left a large volume of works in different forms, including songs, plays, poems and short sayings.
Jennifer marveled at his use of familiar wording and scenes from daily life to express principled insights. He even told mature and complex feelings with simplicity and candour. Although his writing felt conversational, the expressions were concise, on point and never longer than needed.
She was further intrigued by his writing about spirituality in such a sensory way, drawing close to God and gathering virtuous discernment from details of the physical world and the actions of common people. Tagore’s conversation with Einstein about their views of science and spirituality was likewise insightful to read.
Tagore’s soft-spoken clarity, openness, emotional awareness and self-understanding all stood out to her.
“I shall ask him to make me one of his postmen that I may wander far and wide, delivering his message from door to door.” – The Post Office
Jennifer was first introduced to Chinese poetry in her late teens when a bookstore owner offered her a small book of poems written between Tang Dynasty poets Li Bai (Li Po or Li Bo) and Du Fu (Tu Fu). In this brief treasure, she found Li Bai to be lively and well-spoken, and Du Fu to be a noble-minded and impeccable writer. She later read that Du Fu was said to have not only excelled in many forms of Chinese poetry, but taken them to new heights. Afterward, she bought anthologies of traditional Chinese poetry translated into English by Arthur Waley or Kai-yu Hsu, and was impressed by its qualities.
Some of these poems are so neatly packed it is impossible to find a disposable word, yet they remain eloquent. Many poems use common language rather than highly intellectualized terms, and images from everyday events rather than complicated word pictures. Yet the words they use are descriptive, especially in the details, as the poets often employ metaphors, metonymies, and contrasts.
Confucius noted that the point of a poem was to make the mind contemplate its subject deeply, and classical Chinese poets achieve this in a way that reads naturally.
Like Eastern poetry, Biblical poetry uses expressive language with vivid verbs and rich metaphors from everyday life. In scripture, though, these figures of speech are stated in short lines connected by simple conjunctions (and, for, but) for flow and movement, so their strong impact is quickly felt and digested. Two other traits of Biblical poetry stand out.
First, in the Hebrew language, abstract ideas like glory, love and so on are generally made with concrete words. The word for 'become glorious' comes from the root verb for 'become heavy' which in turn comes from the noun for the liver, the heaviest internal organ. These concrete words, rather than limiting the feelings we usually connect with abstract ideas, ignite our imagination and use it to paint full colour, moving pictures in the mind. This helps them work as memory aids for the lesson conveyed by the image. Noteworthy too is that concrete expressions are often easier to translate than abstract concepts.
Second, Biblical poetry uses parallelism; it has been said that rather than rhyme words, it 'rhymes' logical thoughts. Parallelism can be expressed in different forms. A line may be followed by one that repeats the thought of the first but in different words (synonymous), or states the opposing thought (antithetic), or adds to the first (synthetic) perhaps with a simile or metaphor (comparative) or in steps of two, three or more lines (stairlike). The writer can create a more complex picture by building on these. For example, at Psalm 135:15-18, the first line is synonymous or comparative with the last, the second with the second-last, the third with the third-last and finally the thoughts are united at the fourth and fifth lines with a parallelism of synthesis (introverted).
Jennifer mimics this last structure in two of her poems, "White Pine" - A.J. Casson and Daydream (which are themselves at contrasting ends of the sensual spectrum).
All of these traits have value to a poet – arguably, the more vivid the image, and the more simply it is written, the stronger the poem will be.