If you ask the average person how to describe something, they are likely to use adjectives and adverbs. But in writing, especially in poetry, but also in prose, adjectives and adverbs weigh down the read. The more modified a noun or verb is, the less powerful.
It's easiest to see this with an example:
Lilly ran slowly. The heavy, cold rain had soaked through her now sodden shirt.
It's serviceable writing. We can visualize the scene, but it feels like obvious narration, as if a camera's eye is describing events. In two sentences, we have 1 adverb, 3 adjectives, and 2 verbs. Let's play with some stronger verbs and see what happens.
Lilly slogged through rain slick streets. She shivered, her shirt plastered to her skin.
In the second example, we omitted the adverb and replaced it (and its weak verb 'ran') with one strong verb: slogged. We use slick--which can be both a noun and a verb--as an adjective as in 'rain slick' to modify streets. In the second sentence, we have 2 strong verbs: shivered and plastered and no adjectives at all.
The second example also has more emotion and atmosphere than the first. That's because strong verbs carry nuance and emotion better than weaker verbs. Strong verbs are descriptive on their own without the need for additional modification.
Now, if we change the verbs, we can change the emotion.
Lilly sprinted through rain sweetened air. She welcomed the caress of shirt against skin.
Now we have a different atmosphere with sprinted and welcomed. Caress, both a verb and a noun, is used as a descriptive noun here to carry emotion. Sweetened, a verb, is used here as an adjective paired with rain and again conveys a positive mood.
In prose, you have at least some wiggle room to use flatter language. In a 300 page novel, a few adverbs and adjectives won't stand out too much, but in a brief poem in which every word must carry its weight? Be ruthless. Strip out those adverbs. Prune the adjectives.
Let's take a look at a classic poem. Here is one of Shakespeare's most famous sonnets. He knew a thing or two about strong verbs.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
I quickly went through the piece and highlighted the verbs in bold and the adjectives in italics. Notice there are no adverbs here. Most of the verbs are highly descriptive, either alone or paired with the nouns that they modify. There is far more bold than italics in this highly descriptive poem. There are very few adjectives at all.
One interesting note: Shakespeare uses the gerund form of several verbs as adjectives: wandering bark, bending sickle. It adds an unexpected note to the nouns these gerunds modify. If you add the fact that he was working in a rigid rhyme and meter scheme, you begin to understand Shakespeare's genius.
Take a look through your current WIP and find a section with adverbs or adjectives in it. In the comments section, share a few sentences of the original and how you might rewrite them using strong verbs.
Strip out adverbs.