Advice from Authors

Hamish Whyte


SOME TIPS FOR YOUNG POETS (and older ones too)

I don't really like giving advice. The following is probably best characterised as 'some things to think about'.

First and foremost, the most important thing is to READ to see how others found their voice and developed their style, to try to fathom the mystery of how it's done (impossible!).

Things I like in poetry are:

The concrete (William Carlos Williams's 'no ideas but in things');

Mystery (I don't want everything explained);

Intensity and brevity and simplicity (but which often says more than it seems);

Craft (learning the rules before throwing them away);

Care about and imaginative use of language.

Tone is important (how is what is being said said?).

And finally, here are some suggestions from the poet, Basil Bunting:

Compose aloud; poetry is a sound.

Vary rhythm enough to stir the emotion you want but not so as to lose impetus.

Use spoken words and syntax.

Fear adjectives; they bleed nouns. Hate the passive.

Jettison ornament gaily but keep shape.

Put your poem away until you forget it, then: cut out every word you dare. Do it again a week later, and again.

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