Jack Underwood’s 20 poetry tenets

Jack Underwood’s 20 poetry tenets

By Jack Underwood 29/07/13

Earlier this month the Faber New Poet and all round creative good egg, Jack Underwood, began tweeting his poetry tenets. So, young poets, take note. These may well make you a better writer...

  1. No word is poetic. Only ideas are poetic.
  2. Poems should not recount events but be events.
  3. In poems, don't talk like more of a knob than usual.
  4. A poem is a question and not an answer.  
  5. If a poem wanted you to know exactly what it was about, it would be a boiled egg.
  6. A poem is the shoe you saw as a child, by the side of a road, and you asked yourself about.
  7. Good poems are like the thoughts of awful tennis players between points.
  8. Description refers to something in terms of what it is whereas poems refer to things in terms of what they are not.
  9. Never put out a burning poem with a wet person.
  10. Plath: "I have never put a toothbrush in a poem". "My next poem is called The Tootbrush," says the next poet.
  11. All sighs are poetic because they shift the feeling without altering the context.
  12. The more something tries to convince you, the less convincing it sounds.
  13. A figure of speech is a public figure, and therefore should not be trusted.   
  14. Form is a kind of visual grammar, not a job description.   
  15. A poem is getting into a too hot bath without any water in.
  16. There's only a bit of “craft” in “art”.
  17. "Hello" said the poet. "You don't live here anymore," said the poem. "But you can look round".
  18. When you've finished writing a good poem, it should feel like you've just borrowed a close friend's saxophone.
  19. Language isn't fixed so you don't necessarily have to break it.
  20. You will find less than five really good poems.


Selected from the @underwood_jack Twitter feed 09.07.13 #poetrytenets

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