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Les Wicks: A Free Range Poet

The only complaint I have about my KSP residency is that it had to end! Time to write is one of the most precious gifts that can be given to a writer. I can honestly say that I treasured and made full use of that gift. While the stay for a poor novelist might’ve been sitting chained to his or her desk for eight hours, the poet’s productivity is a little more free range.

I read Perth writers’ poems, books on poetics, cranked up the music or went on long hikes around the adjacent National Park, along stretches of beach & the Goat Farm armed with my pen and paper.

I exceeded my target of writing one new piece a day alongside collating/editing a new and selected manuscript with an estimated publication date 2022 (yes, the gestation period really is that long). Met and dialogued with some old friends in the writing community and made a stack of new ones – subjects discussed ranged from punctuation with Scott-Patrick to tree varieties with Fern.

The cabin really was perfectly designed for comfort and productivity. Ranging from the view out the window to the sumptuous desk I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those KSP members who might be interested in a short time of separation from their daily life to dedicate to new work would be wise to contemplate the option of hiring one of these cabins, for a couple of weeks you are no longer a parent, Doctor, Uber driver, asthmatic, supportive friend et cetera... You just exist on this planet for this period of time as a writer, nothing else. It really is an extraordinary experience.

Image: Les Wicks reading poetry at the 1960s themed Literary Dinner

Top 10 Tips on Editing Your Poems

1) Be deliberate – tone, rhythm, rhyme, metre, linebreaks, punctuation, language, tempo, focus & point of view must all be deliberate. This applies also when you decide to change any of the above in a poem.

2) Fatigue checker. Some words are so tired to the point that they actually detract from the poem (e.g. “perfect"). One edit of all your poems should, like a spellchecker, be a clichechecker.

3) Strong beginning & end. Many practitioners argue a poem should be strong from beginning to end and that is, of course, correct. But I believe in this highly competitive world that real strength in the first line is what gets readers/editors "on board" for the journey. Similarly, the ending of a really good poem is so often the hook that stays in the brain after the reader has moved on.

4) Prune. Much of the work in one’s subsequent edits is getting rid of the dead wood. But I think of it more as pruning. New growth can come from that.

5) Be new.

6) Surprise the reader/yourself. Take a chance! Sometimes it won't work out but that openness to change, to experiment is the key to your growth as a poet. Push your boundaries.

7) Use forms -- don’t let them use you. One of the commonest mistakes is allowing whatever poetic form you choose to use to dictate the shape of your poem. The poem is yours. “Form is never more than an extension of content” Charles Olson

8) INGlish can kill. A couple of points here - use of passive voice and overuse of adjectives/adverbs/gerunds can weaken poetic strength.

9) Don’t let the facts obscure the Truth. You are creating a poetic truth, sometimes because the actual facts went a certain way we can't see how being locked into those facts has weakened our poem. Also, diplomacy with loved ones etc may make making some changes advisable!

10) Read others. Being aware of what others are doing will help you see where you stand in the community and the direction in which you are going.

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