I am surprised by the passion in the poetry community about the word “shards”. Having heard from two reputable poets / teachers of creative writing whose opinions I value that “shards” is a no no, and having read on the website of another poetry magazine that the word “shards” should be avoided, I said on twitter that it was pretty clear the word should not be used.
But opinion is divided. There was support for the view that such, what I shall I call them, old-fashioned or twee words should not be written into poems, with people volunteering other words such as “gossamer” and “flux” that should also not be used. But I was reminded that luminaries such as Heaney with “In ash-pits, oxides, shards and chlorophylls”, Hughes with “Then you smashed it/Into shards, crude stars/And gave them to your mother”, and Khalvati with “our algebra of shards” clearly have no such qualms.
Is it then a matter of taste? Or is it rather than some words should not be misused? If the latter, then what of poetic metaphor?
The jury is out for me. I would not use “gossamer wings” because it is far too familiar. But do I completely dismiss the idea of using gossamer? Probably. Similarly, it is unlikely I would use “flux capacitor” because it does not strike me as an immediately useful metaphor. But might I use ‘flux’? Actually I might if it fitted the poem. I like the sound of it.
Is it a question of taste? Or is it truly valid to say that some words have passed their sell-by date?