The term "cliché" is a phrase, expression, or idea that has been overused to the
point of losing its intended force or novelty, especially when at some time it was
considered distinctively forceful or novel. It is generally used in a negative context.

"Cliché" applies also to almost any situation, subject, characterization, figure of
speech, or object — in short, any sign — that has become overly familiar or
commonplace. Because the novelty or frequency of an expression's use varies
across different times and places, whether or not it is a cliché depends largely on
who uses it, the context in which it is used, and who is making the judgment. The
meaning of a particular cliché may shift over time, often leading to confusion or
misuse.

An anti-cliché is a literary device or figure of speech that twists the meaning or
phrasing of a known cliché. Although not named as such by literary critics, many
writers, comedians, and poets have made use of the anti-cliché to provide a
memorable and often ironic phrase, line, or passage. Another concept of the anti-
cliché relates to the relative merit of any particular news story. A report that will likely
garner interest in the target readership must be considered newsworthy; reporting
similar trivial events does not generate a sufficient level of interest. The most
prominent example of this is the "Man Bites Dog" paradigm. A daily newspaper would
become increasingly stale if there were constant reports of dogs biting men, as the
phrase suggests. However, the reverse concept of a man biting the dog is unusual,
perhaps novel and hence particularly newsworthy purely due to the inherent irony of
such an event.

As poets, we should try to avoid clichés, unless there is a specific reason for its use.
Many novice poets may think they are the first ones to express their words in a
unique way, but often wind up boring the reader or listener because the reader has
already heard it before. Clichés become clichés through repetition, and repetition
leads to boredom. How many times haven't you heard a poet say, "Well, I write from
the heart and I put my words down on paper in the manner they come to me?" That's
nice, but do you have to read it in the exact way you wrote it down? You may not
realize it, but many poets besides you have said the exact same thing and said it in
the exact same way. I, in particular, do not want to hear it again. If you attend poetry
readings, festivals, or conventions, and read poetry all of the time, you will
understand what I'm talking about. After a while, all of the poems sound the same.

In church, it may be normal, expected, and acceptable to hear, "Hallelujah!," "Praise
the Lord!," and "Thanks be to God," but unless your poetry is going to be written
solely for the churchgoers, it's going to prove tiresome with the general poetry
population if these phrases are used continuously.  The same goes for other areas
of our lives, such as in the workplace. How many times can you possibly stand
hearing, "Let's get with the program!" The following, "When the going gets tough, the
tough get going," has already been worked to death, so let it die already.

Here are some examples of clichés:

  • Many hands make light work.
  • Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Any friend of yours is a friend of mine.
  • There's no place like home.
  • A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • Her lips are cherry red.
  • Save for a rainy day.
  • My love is like a rose.
  • I love you with all my heart.
  • I'm broken hearted.

And many others.

Here's a poem I wrote about clichés. How many can you identify?
Litany of Clichés


I will not abandon ship,
For after the rains, there are rainbows,
Especially here, in America,
The melting pot of the world,

Where someone’s always the apple
Of someone’s eye, and it’s a living hell,
A shot in the dark.

But, better late than never, for I am
A black sheep, speaking what comes to my mind,
And writing it down exactly the same way I
Thought about it, and nothing needs to be changed,
It is perfect. It’s like the blind leading the blind,

The same with the broken heart, but there’s the calm
Before the storm, and like the caterpillar that turns
Into a butterfly, I’m always chasing rainbows.

I always look for clouds with silver linings
Even if they are cold as ice, or maybe cold-hearted.
No! Maybe warm-blooded! It’s crystal clear to me now.

This is because I dance to the beat of a different drummer!
Or is it the same drummer with a different beat?

What the hell! It’s always darkest before dawn,
Because Death is the gateway to life, and
Every rose has it thorns.

I can look into the eye of the needle, but
If the camel can’t fit, will I? For I am,
After all, fat as a pig and this makes me afraid,
For fear makes you run, no, stay, no, yes, run,
And I must follow my heart, and make
Footprints in the sand,
From the bottom of my heart.

I will go against the current!
For it is God’s mysterious way!
It is God’s will! Jesus be praised!

Good things come to those who wait,
For good things come in tiny packages,
So don’t be in a hurry, for haste makes waste!

Oh, boy, do I have a heart of stone, and it’s hell,
And hell comes from inside, no, from outside,
No, from downside, no wait, from upside…my head,

And Hell hath no freakin’ fury like some woman scorned!
And there’s hell to pay for it, when I’m on a high horse,
Where I can be myself, you can be yourself,
She can be herself, he can be herself,
(Yes, nowadays he can be herself)
And dogs and cats can be themselves.

Hallelujah!
Amen, Brother!
Amen, Sister!
Amen!

Now, I can’t change the past,
Because I did it my way, not your way,
Not his way, not her way,
Not the professor’s way!
No way!

I know, if at first you don’t succeed,
If it doesn’t kill you,
I’ll always love you, I’ll always remember.
After all, I’m only human,
And I will never forget you!
And I know, deep in my heart,
Kissing is a game. Honestly,
This is my original conclusion.

But I will find the light at the end of the tunnel,
Unless I’m dead, then I won’t go into the light,
No, I won’t! Don’t you go into the light
Either, Carol Ann! The Poltergeist will get you!

Ah, but Carol Ann’s mom and I fit like
Hand and glove, like shoe and foot,
Like galoshes and rain, like snow
And snow plow, grass and lawnmowers.
And her lips are red like roses.

And boy, do I love life.
Life is like…
Life goes…
Life has…
Life does…
Life lends…
Life finds…
Life this…
Life that…
Ah, yes, tell me one more time,
Why don’t you?

I knew a little angel once.
I knew a little devil, once.
But, lo and behold!
I’m a lone wolf!

But, shhh, I have a secret.
I found out love is like a rose,
And the man in the mirror is me!
And I’m here, somewhere in
Freakin’ Never-never land!

But nobody’s perfect.
If I don’t have any guts,
I’ll have no glory!
And if I’m not in pain, I’m
Not going to gain I don’t know what.
Whoopee freakin’ do!

I fear nothing, except of course, FEAR!
Be afraid, yourself, be very afraid!

But let’s take it one day at a time.
No, let’s take it one step at a time, instead.
No, no, let’s take BABY steps.
Let’s crawl before we walk.
Let’s walk before we run.
Let’s cross at the green and not in between!
Why don’t we?

However, there are other fish in the sea.
So let’s pull the plug on the ocean and
Gather up those fishies.

I know, I know, parting is such sweet sorrow.
I’m really going to miss you, NOT!
Because you’re going to miss ME!

I’m so sorry for what I just did,
I put all of my eggs into one basket.
It fell, and now I have an omelet.
Oh, a tisket and a tasket, I
Dropped my freakin’ yellow basket!

Sorry again, it’s just that my love
Is pure as a dove, but she’s not even
A freakin’ virgin anymore!
I made sure of that!

Okay, okay! I’ll be quiet as a mouse.
I guess I’m running on empty.
And shit happens, sooner or later!
Why? Because I’m looking, once again,
For my freakin’ soul mate!

You know, I tried looking for those streets of gold,
And can’t find one! Where are they?
There’s no word. There must be a reason.

Oh, Shakespeare, I know the world’s a stage,
But could you take this thorn from out my side,
And get me off this freakin’ stage!
I feel like I’m dying up here.

But, through thick and thin,
I like to tilt at windmills,
And tomorrow is another day,
And I’ve put in my two cents,
And I feel as ugly as that stupid duckling,
And until hell freezes over,

Or pigs fly,

I know waiting is the hardest part,
And I know God is watching from above,
(This rhymes with love)
(The way snow rhymes with go)
And we are each alone.
Although, some fit together like…
(Okay, forget that one)
And when it rains, it pours.
(Not the way clumpy salt pours)
For when the going gets tough,

I work like a dog, and you’ll have a place
In my heart, because you know you
Make my heart sing, you’re
My one and only,
You’re the light of my life,
The wind beneath my wings,
The chewing gum beneath my shoes,
(Alright, alright, forget that one too!)

Because, when all is said and done,
I get this feeling of déjà vu.

—Eddie Morales
Louise Gluck
1943 -
Rita Dove
1952 -
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