Here’s my round up of tips from Mimi Khalvati as recorded in my notebook on Saturday…. yours to do with as you see fit!
- On the subject of clarity and coherence (does one need it? should one worry about it?) Similes are clearer than metaphors, if that’s what you’re aiming for. Mimi’s advice is to use similes ‘to see where you can go’ with the subject, and find the metaphors from that. Then you might want to ditch the similes. It’s a form of distillation/crystaliisation – taking your material and distilling from it the good metaphors. This is what might make it fresh, particularly if your topic is one that’s been done many times before.
- On too much narrative – you don’t have to ‘situate’ everything. Less of a story, more intense, is what you need to make it a poem.
- On internal rhyme – there’s nothing magic about it, it’s just English. ‘It’s impossible to write ten lines without some sort of internal rhyme’. Ouch!
- ‘It’s terribly hard to write a simple, pure, love poem without it sounding trite.’ Pay attention to the sounds, every syllable, every vowel. Sometimes a single word will wrong-foot you. Keep testing it, reading it again and again to hear how it sounds.
- The sensual, the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual – which of these is to the fore in your poem? What’s the balance like? Something to consider. Intellectual (a ‘think’ poem) is more unusual, so might be fresher. Everyone focuses on imagery, so how about fresh ideas, new ways of thinking about something?
- On titles – ‘let the title come from the opposite side of the brain to where the poem has come from’ – for example if the poem is a bit odd then resist the urge to make the title factual or explanatory. (I wasn’t quite sure about this but it was food for thought… plus I need all the help I can get with titles so I will bear this in mind.)