Angela Nardin sings “The Nearness of You” by Ned Washington and Hoagey Carmichael at Hudson River Music Hall on September 17, 2017
It’s not always the evanescent wonder of words that entices readers. It’s just knowing when to say “no[t].”
It wasn’t just Hoagey Carmichael’s ear for a tune that made “The Nearness of You” a hit in pre-WWII America; it was lyricist Ned Washington’s use of litotes, the figure of speech that turns a negative into a positive: “It’s not the pale moon that excites me, / that thrills and delights me, / oh, no. It’s just the nearness of you.” The negation of beauty is paradoxically enhanced by the understatement of a positive. This technique is useful for poets–actually, for sane and savvy folks of all stripes these days.
Paradox makes for fine poetry, particularly when prose falls prey to prevarication.
When current events fuel your ire, or when you just want to praise someone you love, take a stab at litotes. And enjoy this short clip of SUNY Adirondack music student Angela Nardin at vimeo.com/240616709.