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Don Taylor

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I spent last night at a cheap motel in downtown 
Oklahoma City. While waiting for water to heat 
and my wash-and-wear shirt to drip dry and no-
thing better to do, I decided to discuss with myself 
the matter of the many 'show, don't tell' prescript-
ions written so often on Gazebo and his sister, Saint 
Agatha- dispensed with and without license.

I thought first that I would rather be TOLD of Tim-
buktu, fearing that the flies, adders, sandstorms, etc. 
would offset the romance of being SHOWN it; and 
I would rather be TOLD the door than SHOWN it.

On the other hand, I would rather Lucinda SHOW 
me her cottage bedroom on the snow driven moor-
lands of the Margaride than TELL me about that 
delightful place where spreads downy coverlets
five inches thick and a little window that opens to
a scene of running rills, day lilies, and birch trees.

But these thoughts were introductions only, leads-in 
to the matter I assumed would be of interest here- 
but I have been wrong before, as my ability to guess 
what takes the cake and what leaves cake to dry, on 
these sites, is quite deficient. 

I have posted the grandest things only to have them 
ignored as a eunuch ignores the hours strolling gar-
dens and feeding peacocks.

And I was wrong -- totally wrong was my decision to 
come to Oklahoma City in the first place to look for 
Iambe, after her message on my answering machine 
garbled, "Taylor, if you want to, okie-dokey."

I guess now she didn't mean the state of Oklahoma.

It is now clear to me that 'show-don't-tell' is prod-
uctive advice only if one understands the principle 
of subsumption and how outlining works. For exam-
ple. As I told my eight-grade class back in 1965, in 
Menlo, Iowa, 

"State your thesis- "He Was Mean," then illustrate 
it. "

"My neighbor, Tom Feddicky, is a mean man," is 
TELLING, I told my class. "He kicked dogs and 
hanged cats," is SHOWING.

But Hathaway Junior, whose dad raises hogs and 
grows corn, says, "But isn't, 'He kicked dogs,' also 
TELLING? - in this way. "Mr. Feddicky lifted his 
Acme boot, pulled back his leg at the knee cap hinge 
and jammed that boot right into the head of an inno-
cent Collie dog asleep under the chestnut tree,"

... isn't that SHOW-ING at another LEVEL to a TELL-
ING sentence that was considered, before, to be a 
SHOWING sentence?"

Well, that kid was smarter than most kids and people 
I meet on these poetry sites. He was right. 'Show, 
don't tell' is a matter of subsumption and levels. 
And I'm weary of it as a prescription that makes no 
sense to me at all.

So, as my shirt dried and the motel lights flicked a 
neon green '$18.95 Single' sign, I surmised Iambe 
was not to be found in Oklahoma- unless she want-
ed to be; and right then might be on a slow boat to 
China with the man who wrote *Stardust* -- and had 
his name wrapped in waxed paper as a late night 
snack.

© Don Taylor