Posts Tagged ‘description’

I finally finished my reading on setting at the poetry stage, and this week’s book is Penguin’s Poems for Life, selected by Laura Barber.

What I wanted to pick up was how feeling and setting interact but what I got was a little wider than that.

What I took was that description is an art.  In much the same way I am studying the importance of the right word, the power of poetry is linked to picking the right language.

For example, Seamus Heaney’s The Railway Children describes ‘shiny pouches of raindrops’ a phrase that describes their appearance, reminds the reader of the industrial nature of trains, gives a sense of something hidden within them (in this case, words) and makes them tiny gifts.  All these ideas are part of the setting of the poem: on the railway cutting.

Another example which caught my eye was Walt Whitman’s poem A Noiseless Patient Spider.  The sense that the web of a small spider could be a metaphor for life, a soul, creation was rather beautiful and unexpected.

This is a good reminder really – you can be both literal and figurative in poetry but sometimes you also need to be bold: follow a thought through its twists and turns and see if the journey is worth recording!

I had a fair number of poems I could share, different examples of poetry I love, but poetry is a particularly personal medium and my passion won’t necessarily match yours.

The best and most important point though is that truly effective writing, in whatever form, is a connection between the writer and the reader. The more you are able to bring them into your world, the more trust they will place in you and the more likely they are to lose themselves in your work.

I forget to think about poetry when concentrating on prose writing but that is very short-sighted because it means I miss opportunities to improve my work.

As a result of this reading exercise I have decided to make sure I read  at least one poem a week, analytically, to understand it and see what lessons I can learn for my own work.

Happy reading,



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Oh dear – another late posting and I’m not even in the last gasp of getting the wedding stuff done.  By November I’ll probably be about two weeks behind!

This week I hosted the writing group and decided to use the magic of the internet to find some writing exercise that I thought would spur everyone’s imagination. The theory was that by allowing people to choose their own exercise, they would engage with it and explore something that felt right for them.

It didn’t quite work like that though – in fact it filled everyone with a shared horror, akin to sitting an exam when they haven’t done any studying!  Still, we all got through it and it was very interesting to see how different people approach writing.  For example, one person can take virtually any exercise and create an adventure story whilst another explores what I call ‘the human experience’ by focussing on feelings and emotions.

This is what’s best about writing exercises, especially for newer, or less confident, writers.  You spot patterns in your work.  Areas of strength and of development; styles; shortcuts in your language that need refining.  You see how easy, or hard, it can be to put on paper what is in your mind.

Don’t just take my word for it though; have a go.   There are plenty of exercises on-line or in writing guides, but you can make your own if you like too.  Write a piece where the world is black and white, and your character has to explain colours in 500 words, or where your romantic lead is a serial killer, or where someone can hear the weather talking and has to decipher what it is saying.

Anything, and everything, is possible in books.  The limit isn’t just your imagination, it’s also your ability to describe what you imagine.  By exercising your mind you will make yourself as good a writer as you can be.

Hopefully, it won’t always feel like a pop quiz when you try!

Happy writing,



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