Do-you-think-the-saurus? #poetry #dVerse

‘Lie down in the word-hoard,’
Heaney said, ‘burrow/the coil and gleam/
of your furrowed brain.’
I’ve never used a thesaurus
to write poetry
sometimes in my novel, when the correct-shaped word
eluded me
perhaps I’m lucky
I think I’ve a thesaurus in my head
year after year
of languages, dialects and codices
some living and some dead.

First it was my native Cumbrian
Howst’ th gan on, Lass?
‘Howst’ th gan on?’

Then all those Northern beauties
Geordie, Liverpudlian
Manchester (no-nonsense, cuties!) then
down south to Epsom
‘Dawlin, Baybe!’ Essix nearby
Nowf Lahdan too: a cavalcade
of Englishes
down through the years, the Middle
and the Old
taught me to be bold
with my word choices.

Then there came the foreign ones:
my Grandma taught me some Latvian.
At school, plenty of French
a smattering of German
ich bin du bist
how’d’ you ever learn them?
Arriving in Spain, without a word
I lost my voice, only to find it again
‘Memrise’ on the bus and in the supermarket queue
vocab-lists on the beach and in the hospital too
just don’t ask me to speak Spanish after giving birth: Ay, Madre!
Slovenian was difficult, but year-on-year
and a mother-in-law
taught me the hard way.

Most tantalising of all to me
are those dead languages
the Minoan, the Etruscan and
the Mycenean Greek
hints of fragments of words which once flowed like water
with now no soul nor any sense to speak
the territory of the scholar
realm of the treasure-seeker
and poetry, so many lines which
gleam like treasure to me
so I’ve no need of a Thesaurus, see:
though you may think I’m lucky
I’d contest, I’m simply me.

*from the poem ‘North.’ All other lines © 2022 All Rights Reserved.

Written for dVerse

Tonight, Laura hosts Poetics, with a thesaurus-inspired prompt. I chose option two:

Simply write about the Thesaurus, as the above poets have – what it means to you; describe it, have fun with it. Let the synonyms flow, or antagonise with antonyms.

I’d never really thought about it until now, but it has never occured to me to reach for a thesaurus when writing poetry. That’s not to say I won’t in future. And as for the title, just remembering some bad dinosaur jokes…

Q: What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary?

A: A Thesaurus.

91 thoughts on “Do-you-think-the-saurus? #poetry #dVerse

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  1. Wow, all those languages Ingrid. I had job enough just learning Frence. I love Latin though I neber learned it at school. Languages and dialects are wonderful.

  2. I’m sure your study of languages has given you more practice than most with finding the right word! I don’t normally use a thesaurus for poetry either, but when writing longer works, I do tend to use it. Great write!

  3. Nice one. I have loved the thesaurus this last 12 months. The nurses tell you that chemo brain is a real thing. So while at times words jump at me, begging to be used, there are many times when the language I want dances off into a fog and I must go hunting in bushes or under rocks. The thesaurus helps me with a game hide and seek in which I am always “it”.

    1. I can understand this, because I get PMDD brain and sometimes I know what the word is and it just won’t come. This isn’t an anti-thesaurus poem, it’s just about my poetry writing process!

      1. ❤❤ I envy all your languages/dialects. I thinknit enriches the brain. I have learned Indonesian and Msndarin but never got to true fluency in either. And Australia doesn’t have the real variation in language use that England does

      2. Both of those languages must be a real challenge! That’s interesting about the lack of dialects in Australia, maybe these take time to develop…

      3. I would say so. 🙂 But travel is so much easier now than in England’s history. The likelihood of people developing their own dialects is much smaller because… well we all interact so much. It’s not like the old days when people might spend their whole lives in one shire.

  4. You are extraordinarily talented Ingrid, and I am in awe of your extensive vocabulary…. I cannot write without using my dictionary or thesaurus… although I did have to re-educate myself to read and write 22 years ago … and I suppose I’ll continue to battle through with my inherent problems…

  5. All those languages, and only one learned the hard way! Impressive. I’d be lost without my big fat thesaurus and my rhyming dictionaries. 😂

  6. Amazing, Ingrid! I don’t use thesaurus when I write poetry either, I was thinking of writing along the same lines but I see you’ve done it already and very beautifully.

  7. Great poem Ingrid! I envy you all your languages! I used to read the dictionary and therasaurus as a child, so all the words are in my head now.

  8. So many languages! Although my mother really encouraged me to learn languages, I’ve found I don’t quite have the knack for them, it’s like a beginner in french learning to pronounce “Gateau”(cake) and then learning that the plural form is also pronounced the same way,but is spelled “gateaux”,hence my losing interest in it. I do envy your little archive of knowledge here.. 🙂

    1. It’s quite mind blowing isn’t it? But what is your first language, if you don’t mind my asking? You must be fluent in at least two!

  9. The ancient languages…yes! I watched a historian peaking Assyrian — it was absolutely thrilling, enthralling…I don’t know how you mange to do without a thesaurus, but it certainly makes your voice authentic if you don’t! My much better half is Latvian…when I worked a wee while in Hungary trying to explain what democracy was, an the concept of police service, not police force, I remember a rather irate police woman telling me, “well…Shakespeare is better in Hungarian! It has always been one of my very favourite lines…..I suppose her point was how Hungarian has remained a medieval language…which I suppose it has, though these types use terms like “language purity” which I find abhorent, and dull…and I am not sure they ever understood they were supposed to be a”service”…

    1. There’s absolutely no such thing as “language purity” from a linguistic perspective. People who know nothing about languages always seem to think they know the most 🤣 thank you for your interesting comment!

  10. Travel certainly opens your mind to the use of language. It took me a few years working in the Deep South before I grasped that not only is y’all different from y’all y’all but its meaning might depend on its position in a sentence.

  11. Oh my, Ingrid! You are such a polyglot and no I didn’t use the thesaurus. 😉
    I never use a thesaurus while writing poetry (while I do use a dictionary sometimes) but it was my best friend in college.
    I really enjoyed this. ❤️

  12. the concept of finding the right shaped word is part of what makes poetry fun for me. great line. i have a few words of italian that i learnt working in a kitchen. so they are not any good for ordering coffee but i can insult your children. ( they dont tend to be used ).

  13. a linguist is a rare treasured talent … I’m so deprived only having a smattering of other languages, not enough to converse! Like this history

  14. Oh, I really love this, Ingrid. You are a walking Thesaurus for sure. You have lived in so many countries and your vocabulary melts one language into another. Beautifully written!

  15. This is incredibly heartfelt, Ingrid! So much to love here especially; “the Mycenean Greek, hints of fragments of words which once flowed like water.” Yes! 💝💝

  16. I enjoyed reading this poem, Ingrid. I have always been in awe of your prolific and consistently excellent writing, no matter what the form.

    Though I studied French and Spanish, I never became fluent in either. I admire those who are multilingual. When I was growing up, I read the World Book Encyclopedia and the dictionary, but maybe i should have been reading the thesaurus! 🙂

  17. Man alive all those languages! Bit like Jason Bourne without the memory loss. Or that child genius who can speak ten different lingos and he’s only thirteen. Smug little git! Dobrou noc!

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