In Part 4: Finding Words, we chose the subject matter for our poem, and we began to refine it by removing unnecessary words. But how do we know which words to discard and which words to keep? All the way back in A Problem To Solve, when were struggling to describe feelings with language, we decided that using words like “very”, “extremely”, or “thoroughly” to make something sound more intense didn’t do a terribly good job. However, even though we have chosen to describe meaningful events that can make Earnest experience intense feelings for himself, we still need to use intense language in our descriptions. How do we know what kind of words to use? How do we know when to use little words and when to use big words?
In Part 3: The Essence Of Things, we thought about remembering, and the way in which some special memories seem to capture a certain time, place or experience perfectly and completely. Such memories are laden with meaning. Each little part of them seems significant. We realised we could use this kind of densely-packed event, together with the form of emotional language we discussed in Part 2, to convey the experience of falling in love to our very serious and sensible friend Earnest.
However, we are left with the problem of finding, selecting and editing such an experience from our ill-fated romance with Julia. Here, I must cheat a little, for I know all sorts of particular details about how we met and fell in love with Julia, and you (even though I’m sure you have been reading very carefully), know only a few.
In Part 2: A Problem To Solve, we tried to remember how it felt to fall in love for the first time, and thought about how to share that feeling. We realized that simply telling someone about what happened to us or how we felt at a certain time often didn’t explain our experience to them very well. Instead, we discovered that it was better to choose language that helped that person reproduce our emotions and thoughts in their own mind using their imagination.
That helps us decide how to write, but it doesn’t help us decide what to write about.
If we have fallen in love with Julia, there are many things we could write about. We could write about the first time we saw her. We could write about the first time we spoke to her. We could write about the long evenings we spent writing her letters, and the many mornings we scrumpled them up and threw them away. We could describe the bravery it took to ask her to the dance, or the sadness we felt when she refused.
Try to remember how it feels to fall in love for the first time.
If you have never been in love before, imagine you are swimming in the ocean when the waves are tall and crashing on the shore, or running down a hill so fast your legs won’t stop when you tell them to. You shall have to think carefully and concentrate very hard; it is difficult to know what being in love is like if it has never happened to you, as we shall soon see.
When we experience something powerful and out of the ordinary, we often want to share those feelings with other people. How can we share the feeling of falling in love for the first time?
The way we teach people about poetry is strange.
Imagine that there is a child named Robert who had grown up in a far off and isolated village, in a place with no modern vehicles whatsoever. Imagine if Robert asked you, “What is a car?” How would you answer such a question?
I would say to Robert, “Let’s go and visit my friend, he knows the answer. He lives one hundred miles away.”
“A hundred miles?” Robert would say, “That’s too far to walk! We will become very tired, and the journey will take a long time.”
“In that case,” I would reply, “how can we visit my friend without walking?”