Poetry Writing Tip

Written by Joy MacKay
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I remember running after a poetry professor when I was in college. I was a young creative writing student out in California, and looking for ways to publish my own poetry. I asked the professor for a poetry writing tip when I caught up to him.

The Best Poetry Writing Tip

His answer surprised me, as it was not exactly what I would have wanted for advice. He told me not to "prune my seeds," or be overly critical about cutting my poetry before I had begun fully letting a poem grow. He said that he had given this poetry writing tip to many students, as they all would write a few lines, and then trash a poem.

In the years since, I keep having to remind myself of this poetry writing tip. When I find myself writing three lines and then frowning and balling up the page, I remember his words. I go towards the trash, uncrumple the paper, and begin my poem with those lost lines.

This has enabled me to let my poems take on a life of their own. I am able to prune them down later, once they have reached their full potential. Who knows where those first three lines will take me? Only the poem, my friend.


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