When Boeing decides to subsidize swine, will Southwest paint its purple over pink?

And what’s your destination if you board a Boar to get there? Does the pot-bellied aircraft soften turbulence?

Oh, be still your barbequed heart (or brain, or eyes, or whatever it is with which you read). I know Smithfield Farm runaways will never taxi down America’s runways – not anytime in the vicinity of Now – but isn’t the visual bizarre? If I typed a solitary “when pigs fly,” would even one of your lashes flutter upwards? Probably not.

Clichés are paradoxical things: their ubiquity both sustains and befalls them. Creative writers pray these common, empty phrases are beneath them, but alas, ubiquity is magically endowed. It buttons its big ‘ole invisibility cloak snug around a cliché’s shoulders, letting “big ‘ole” or one of his cousins find love within your Word document. Hey, s*** happens. Most writers I’ve read have allowed a few to crawl into their poems/stories/blog posts.

So, a piece of cake falls through the colander and onto your unedited page. Can it stay there?

Cue Maureen Seaton, a poet who is actually incapable of publishing clichés: at least nowadays. Last week in workshop, she told us about an early poem she wrote, one line being “all the money in the world.” When advised by her instructor to excise it, she objected – what was wrong with “all the money in the world?”

“It’s cliché,” said the teacher.  “You’re a poet. It’s your job to be fresh.”


Maureen listened. She redefined “all the money in the world” as “all the gold I could wear on two arms,” and eventually harvested more awards/publication credits than I can count without an instrument from Texas.

(PS: explore Maureen’s blog, Glit Lit, at http://almostdorothy.wordpress.com/category/themes/glit-lit/. You will love it.)

So, there you go. Fling the cake into the trashcan. Clichés aren’t evil, but don’t they devalue the boundlessness of words? Writing really is a blessed opportunity. What sculpts a sentence will never face material or numerical restrictions, and we should always choose to wield our rhetorical infinity.

Below, seventeen clichés clamor for reinterpretation. Tuck your rejuvenated phrase into a poem, or weave it into dialogue. Above, I simply expanded “when pigs fly” into a cluster of questions, which I may or may not incorporate creatively. Remember: infinity.

through thick and thin:

stubborn as a mule:

at the crack of dawn:

moment of truth:

propose a toast:

once in a blue moon:

bat an eyelash:

silence is golden:

misery loves company:

curiosity killed the cat:

think twice:

all hell broke loose:

vast majority:

with flying colors:

stuck out like a sore thumb:

the rest is history:

fingers crossed:

Thank you so much for reading – because gratitude will never be cliché.


Mangrove Poetry Editor


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