Poets Should Have Standards

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Poets Should Have Standards

I won't stoop to the gutter

And wallow in the muck

I'll only use the eff word

In quotes from those still stuck


I don't like seeing poets

Engaged in gutter trawl

Looking for some cheap thrills

For readers to enthral


Poets should have standards

An Ethics type of Code

And not trawl in the gutter

And thus this Code erode


Don Matthews August 2019


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Lisa C Bassignani

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 22:37

I too believe that poetry should not be inundated with profanity. But as I mentioned earlier, in regards to Leon's recent (eco rant) about stealing the f***ing stop sign ...sometimes it is the appropriate
use of words. Sometimes the point cannot really be convened with "nice" words. Sometimes people need to rant...

Ruth, I have also hear that it originates from the old Norse language.

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Fri 23rd Aug 2019 22:24

I suppose if we take daily TV in the UK as an example, most often the word "fuck" is used on gritty dramas where it has least impact. If we found it in say Downton Abbey it would seem revolting. Any sex documentaries will use it liberally, and there it seems fitting too. As far as poetry goes it can feel gratuitous unless the poem is hard hitting, which I think can be acceptable (which includes "shit" by the way). But this topic will never go away unless we all take a pill for it.


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Graham Sherwood

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 19:44

My mother would always say that using an expletive is for people who do not have a good enough vocabulary. I never heard my father swear!

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M.C. Newberry

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 16:56

"Familiarity breeds contempt". Or how the oft-derided clichés
speak timely truth to us. The sudden unexpected use of a swear
word intended to create an effect within a context is within the
realm of acceptability. Let me give my thought in verse: ?
"Fuck, fuck, fuck", the workman said,
As he drove the nail in
And missed the wood
(His aim wasn't good)
To pierce bone and skin.
To engage in the use of swear words for "show" is merely being a
But - an enjoyable discussion on a contentious subject.

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Don Matthews

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 14:32


You have raised an interesting and important point which hadn't occurred to me. I think my reasoning is correct. Stand-up comics who use foul language for cheap thrills and shock value are catering to an audience who are hungry for this. Also think Gordon Ramsay.

Readers of our poetry don't want this sort of treatment. Our clientele is more selective, refined. As you say Devon:

"it does little to enhance a poem, but instead, in many cases, diminishes the impact of what the writer is attempting to be conveyed"

So true Devon. Thankyou for raising this.

Devon Brock

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 14:13


I agree with you about using language for cheap thrills and pure shock value, it does little to enhance a poem, but instead, in many cases, diminishes the impact of what the writer is attempting to convey.


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Fri 23rd Aug 2019 13:46

sad though to think how accepted as a normal everyday word F has become, when, where and how can we draw the line of decency. I have used it but as Dev kind of suggests only to promote anger in likes of rants and so on.

Cheer's Don for making a fair point.

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Don Matthews

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 12:48

My favorite word is shit. But it's not found in the gutter.

Someone in this thread said, and this is what I object to , is the use of foul language as a cheap thrill purely for shock effect. Like some standup comics do - cheap, gutter level jokes and the audience laugh their heads off.

Having said that there is a place for it in our work. An acquired skill.
I have used it in one of mine somewhere in the past. As this poem says I was using the language which was common usage for these people.

I guess we all have our own individual 'code of ethics' we apply to our work. And they vary greatly. I guess I was trying to say I don't like poets stooping in the muck looking for purely cheap shock thrills.

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Brian Maryon

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 12:20

How does your favourite word fit into this moral code Don?

Devon Brock

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 11:40


I think that if we were to self censor, we would not have poets like Ginsberg, there would be no Kerouac as we know it, etc. What is most important, to me at least, is to accurately write the voice of the speaker, whether it be the writer's own voice or the conjured voice of a fictional narrator. I have recently thrown the "F" bomb in a poem. And the effect on the poem worked as intended. It stopped the piece in it's tracks and forced a shift in direction. Anyway, I think careful use of language to convey meaning is the "code of ethics" is what is most important.

Thanks for opening up a fresh discussion.


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Ruth O'Reilly

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 11:32

It originates from old Viking words of power I believe! That sense of empowerment remains with some when they use that language. It has it's place, depends on how it's used. I rarely swear anyway & swearing is not allowed on radio .

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Jason Bayliss

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 10:08

Yeah, I've got to say, on this one I kind of agree with you Don but I'd have to qualify that statement. I think that we're about language in all its shapes and forms but I don't like it when it's obvious that the word has been added purely to shock the reader.
I think it's a much harder skill to write a phrase that expresses the exact emotional input of saying, "Fuck!" for instance, and it's a skill I don't have, so for me, in the right places, I'm afraid some of the swear words are staying in.?

J. x

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kJ Walker

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 09:39

I must confess I do slip in the odd mild swearword. I don't use strong language in my poems, as I don't in my everyday speach.
But I'm never offended when others do swear, it's just a part of normal speach these days.

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Brian Maryon

Fri 23rd Aug 2019 09:13


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