For me, good poetry has always seemed to be good writing distilled. If you can learn the discipline of saying a lot in a few words, then it can only help when you come to edit your book, short story, or whatever piece of writing you’re working on. Whether you write for children or adults, fantasy or fact, literature or poetry, the rules are similar: waffle and convoluted plots lose readers. Like the best writing, great poetry effortlessly spans the centuries.
Here’s a favourite of mine from 8th-century Japan, proving that human emotion is universal and timeless.
RED STAR LILIES
In the shadow of a thicket
On this summer-wasted land,
Their startling flowers unremarked
The red-star lilies stand.
To burn with love, and yet to be
Not even noticed. Agony.
Lady Otomo no Sakanoue (699-c781)
Who hasn’t felt that at some time in their life? Capture that essence in your writing and you will hold your reader in the palm of your hand until the last page.
Kay Leitch is the author of Treasure This