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Telling not showing – Shelley’s “England in 1819”

Like chemical weed killers, critical principles become destructive when they spread too widely. Take the idea that wherever possible the writer should show and not tell. It’s an excellent editing tool when applied appropriately, and any number of fine poems seem to draw much of their strength from how completely they embody it. We looked at an example in a very good class I went to last week, Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”. But a few seconds’ thought will show how much the field of possible utterance would be narrowed for poetry if “show, don’t tell” were adopted as a … Continue Reading