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Sundance Creativity -- Poetic Cliches


Webster's defines cliché as "a trite expression or idea." Trite, by the way, means "devoid of freshness or appeal due to overuse." A poem that is "devoid of freshness" cannot be a good thing. Yet clichés are rampant in poetry today, particularly among new or younger poets.

I have heard the arguement that the use of clichés helps the poet by making a poem easily understood. By using common language and phrases, the poem speaks universally! In a way this is true, but consider the downside: by using a cliché, you are using words that have been in countless other poems. A cliché does not express you or your unique perspective. A cliché may give simple clarity, but at the sacrifice of originality.

In some circles, the worst clichéd poetry is known as HASP, or "heart and soul poems." These pieces are usually expressions of love, joy, pain or sorrow that employ mundane, overused phrases. Heart and soul poems are difficult to distinguish one from another; they do not provide a unique perspective from the writer to the reader.

If a poem is to cover a subject such as love or heartbreak, the poet must remember that these themes have been written about for centuries. In order to make a love poem memorable and impactful, it must bring something new to the subject. Clichés must be avoided at all costs.

To guide you, we have assembled a list of "heart and soul" clichés. If you find yourself tempted to use one of these phrases in a poem, you should reconsider. If you already have used one, it's time for a rewrite!

If you have a HASP cliché that isn't listed here, please email the webmistress and we'd be happy to include it!


My heart is in my hand
My heart is on fire
My heart is aflame
My heart longs for you
My heart will always be true
My heart is weary
My heart sings to you
My heart will never be free
My heart is an open book
My heart clings to you
My heart cries out to you
My heart laid bare
    My heart is drowning in sorrow
My heart aches for you
My heart reached out
My heart is a lonely hunter
You tore out my heart
You set my heart on fire
You clawed at my heart
You held onto my heart
Your cheating heart
Your lying heart
A weary heart


My soul is alone
My soul is a shadow
My soul took flight
My soul reached out
My soul is on fire
My wandering soul
My weary soul
My lonely soul
    My open soul
My soul laid bare
The shadow of my soul
A soul full of longing
A soul full of sorrow
A solitary soul
A hollow soul
A soul of discretion

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This page last updated September 26, 1999

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