Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More Advice to Poets from Tom O'Bedlam

Here is more advice to poets from Tom O'Bedlam of the Spoken Verse Youtube Channel; this time it's phrased as advice--or "stiff criticism"--to one poet but meant, of course, for poets in general:



"Your main problem is that nobody is going to read your stuff. A poem has about five seconds to arrest the reader, to provide motivation to read the remainder. I read scores of poems almost every day. You wouldn't have stopped me from quitting after the first few lines.

Be intelligible and/or arresting, amusing and/or diverting. There's no point in being abstruse. The reader says - to hell with this, it's gibberish. Provide something that piques curiosity, that makes them read on.

According to Ezra Pound, poetry consists of logopoeia, phanopoeia and melopoeia. You have to learn the trade, read everything that went before. The hallmark of genius is technical innovation - but you have to know what's been done to death before you can depart from it. If you write what you think looks like poetry then you stole it. Many people can sing like Al Jolson.

To start with you should learn to write in clear definitive sentences with some respect to spelling, grammar and syntax. (Okay I have occasional blind spots, but they're usually typos. I can spell most words in the language most days, I just have odd lapses of memory sometimes) You can take liberties once you're proved you know what you're doing. Look at the early work of Picasso for instance. He showed the world be could paint before bringing out the crazy stuff from the back of the closet. You'll gain neither respect nor readership if you appear illiterate. If you can't be bothered to learnt to write properly, then why should you expect people to forgive you? You're up against thousands of writers manquees, prepared to put in all that it takes in sweat-equity.

It's no use offer an explanation or an apology or whatever - nobody will read that either. The poet has only one language and the poem must be self-contained. Either give up or try a lot harder.

That's stiff criticism but it might put you on the right path. "


"It shows an excellence of character that you take it so well. Most of the stuff I'm asked to comment on isn't worth reading - but, then, most published poetry isn't worth reading. Once a poet has gained status then we have to accept whatever he or she turns out. I've read rubbish written by laureates."
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