Poetry Month Challenges Day 30: Zeal and Zealousness

Zealousness in Zeal by Maria L. Berg 2023

Zeal & Zealousness

Finding the contradictory nature in today’s abstract nouns was an interesting and challenging exercise. Many would say that zeal and zealousness have the same meaning, however, zeal is a feeling and zealousness is being full of or characterized by that feeling.

I thought writer Harvey Ardman’s answer to the question of how zeal and zealousness differ came closest to what I was thinking when he wrote on quora.com:

“Zeal” means having a lot of energy or enthusiasm for a cause or a task.

“Zealousness” has the same meaning, but with an additional connotation of obsession.

Harvey Ardman

I thought it was interesting that last year I wrote about zealousness as something positive and motivational, but this year because I was looking at zeal and zealousness as contradictory, zealousness took on a negative meaning to me.

This got me thinking about a third continuum of abstract nouns which is bias. During my studies of contradictory abstract nouns, I’ve come to the conclusion that contradictory abstract nouns are the same noun defined along a continuum of perceptual bias. So for today’s graph of all of the contradictory abstract nouns I explored this month, I added a third dimension, of positive or negative bias. Here’s my three-dimensional mapping of the contradictory abstract nouns along the axes of fear, control, and bias:

Three Dimensions of Abstract Nouns by Maria L. Berg 2023
Positive Bias by Maria L. Berg 2023

Today’s Images

To find the zeal in zealousness and zealousness in zeal, I played with the same painting with a flashlight technique I used last year. I set up the tri-pod in the mirrorworld, and used a Kandinsky-inspired sharpie drawing on clear plastic filter. Using the timer, and trying different shutter speeds, I zealously attempted to write a Z and an M. My zeal waned when I got hungry.

Zeal in Zealousness by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is to to “write a palinode – a poem in which you retract a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. For example, you might pick a poem you drafted earlier in the month and write a poem that contradicts or troubles it. This could be an interesting way to start working on a series of related poems. Alternatively, you could play around with the idea of a palinode by writing a poem in which the speaker says something like “I take it back” or otherwise abandons a prior position within the single poem.”

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a surprise poem.

The Poem

Defining Zealousness

Last year zealousness was positive.
It was active and diligent,
hard to discern from zeal.
But today it’s a negative trait:
it’s too much, excessive, obsessive;
it’s pushy, single-minded and won’t listen;
it is so devoted and convicted that it
is a one way street to aggression and violence.

Last year zealousness was passionate
and full of intense emotion,
but this year that emotion has changed:
from pleasure to addiction;
from motivation to necessity
at all cost; from love to hate.
And that zealousness leaves
a hole, a hunger, a vicious
circular definition like a spinning
magnet attracted and repulsed,
and attracted an repulsed
until the string breaks.

Last year zealousness was enthusiasm,
a feeling of excitement for what’s to come.
But today it’s contradictory, line-crossed
to the fanatic, past the point of discovery
and surprise, to the point of know it all
and everyone else is wrong, and nothing
will be the same, and something must be done
because no one is listening and they all
must see because zealousness is now
all consuming, and the zeal is waning
from hunger.

One thought on “Poetry Month Challenges Day 30: Zeal and Zealousness

  1. Pingback: Reviewing April and Contemplating May | Experience Writing

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