So someone said the other day that they had heard that you should never use the word later in a poem. I am not sure that I agree with this, but it did make me more aware of how and when I use it in my own poems. I gave a reading at Ely River Rhymes Festival yesterday and one of the things I noticed was that two of the poems I read used the word later to signify something that will or could happen later on. This seems like too many times - I don't want that kind of repetition of ideas in one reading.
I sometimes notice this kind of repetition in books. I know we all have particular words and phrases that we are attracted to, and that these ideas sometimes appear in more than one poem. For example I have a poem called "The Bird Inside" in which the "I" is "full to the brim with tweets and whistles" - and I have used a similar sentiment in another poem, which is about a new mother in hospital, where "her mouth emits a series of beeps and whistles..." Two very similar ideas, so similar in fact, that although the poems have quite different subject matter I don't feel comfortable reading them in the same reading. This is the kind of thing that I think I would really notice if I was reading a collection, and I wonder, although I like both poems, whether one of them should be ejected from the collection that I am putting together.
But back to the idea of whether "later" is an over-used conceit in poetry. I suppose it is used a fair amount (I will probably notice it a lot more now that my awareness has been drawn to it) and I will be thinking hard over the next few of days about whether there are other ways of signalling something that might or will happen later on in a poem.