Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Descriptive powers

One of the things that sets the work of great writers apart is their powerful descriptive powers. Lawrence Ferlinghetti demonstrated his descriptive skills in the following excerpt from his book of experimental plays Routines. This is his answer to the question, "What is man?"

"Man is a self-balancing, 28 jointed adapter-based biped; an electro-chemical reduction plant, integral with segregated stowages of special energy extracts in storage batteries, for subsequent actuation of thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps with motors attached; 62,000 miles of capillaries; millions of warning, signal, railroad and conveyor systems; crushers and cranes (of which the arms are magnificent 23 jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems and a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for 70 years if well managed); the whole extraordinarily complex mechanism guided with exquisite skill from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering and recording range finders, a spectroscope etc., the turret control being closely allied with an air-conditioning intake and exhaust and a main fuel intake

Within the few cubic inches housing the turret mechanisms, there is room also, for two soundwave and sound-direction finder recording diaphragms, a filing and instant reference system and an expertly devised analytical laboratory large enough not only to contain minute records of every last and continual event of up to 70 year's experience or more, but to extend, by computation and abstract fabrication, this experience with relative accuracy into all corners of the observed universe. There is, also, a forecasting and tactical plotting department for the reduction of future possibilities to generally successfully specific choice."

Writing your own detailed description of "man" is an exercise that is sure to sharpen your own descriptive powers. Another way to become a better writer is to attend the annual Ligonier Valley Writers Conference this summer.   

Thank you for reading this blog, please feel free to comment on it and to share it with others.

Keep your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas flowing and your dreams alive.

Jim Busch

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