When To Say No[t]

IMG_7984Angela Nardin sings “The Nearness of You” by Ned Washington and Hoagey Carmichael at Hudson River Music Hall on September 17, 2017

It’s not always the evanescent wonder of words that entices readers. It’s just knowing when to say “no[t].”

It wasn’t just Hoagey Carmichael’s ear for a tune that made “The Nearness of You” a hit in pre-WWII America; it was lyricist Ned Washington’s use of litotes, the figure of speech that turns a negative into a positive: “It’s not the pale moon that excites me, / that thrills and delights me, / oh, no. It’s just the nearness of you.” The negation of beauty is paradoxically enhanced by the understatement of a positive. This technique is useful for poets–actually, for sane and savvy folks of all stripes these days.

Paradox makes for fine poetry, particularly when prose falls prey to prevarication.

When current events fuel your ire, or when you just want to praise someone you love, take a stab at litotes. And enjoy this short clip of SUNY Adirondack music student Angela Nardin at vimeo.com/240616709.

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For a Beloved Colleague

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Killarney National Park, Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne

Hy-Brasil / by Kathleen McCoy

in memory of Carole Dunson Moreau

A big-hearted brainy broad born
to be a teacher went to bed last night
and never rose again, yet the sun
dares shine without her. Chocolate

turns to sand, to salt, to silt and still
the earth is green. Hands must
stroke the open wound to know
what’s real–how Venus burns

brightly because sulphuric acid
reflects the rays of sun. How the isle
of Hy-Brasil knits an Aran mist
whose molecules have passed through

St. Brendan and Molly Brown alike.
How it disappears after five hundred years,
unuttered word at tongue’s moist tip, then
rises from the sea, transmogrified

in fog and crystal skies. In dreams she still
wears streaks of summer in her hair,
inscribes notes of succor with a purple pen
her smile wide as the ocean between us.