Want to be a better poet? Gary Barwin has 5 tips for you

The CBC Poetry Prize juror offers advice for those looking to become better poets. But you can ignore it if you want — Gary says that's okay.
Gary Barwin is the author of the novel Yiddish for Pirates. (Adela Talbot)

Gary Barwin is a multidisciplinary artist, composer and poet who knows how to get his writing noticed. His debut novel Yiddish for Pirates was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and won the Leacock Medal for Humour. He's serving as a juror for the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize alongside Rosanna Deerchild and Humble The Poet.

Want to be a better poet? Here's advice from Gary Barwin.

1. Read a lot

Gary says: "I suggest you read a lot. There's all sorts of amazing writing out there. Read a bunch of things and see which kind of things appeal to you. Try doing that or do the exact opposite."

2. Get excited by your work

Gary says: "Write what feels the most exciting to you, not what you think poetry should be or what someone else has told you poetry should be. Write something that really excites you and engages you and electrifies you."

3. Have a clear vision

Gary says: "If you're building a house, a house should have windows, probably. If you're building a bank vault, you probably don't want windows. It's the same thing with a poem. Whatever it is, whatever it sets up, it should be doing that job well. Draw me in and be exciting or engaging or mystifying."

4. Trust your imagination

Gary says: "Write your way towards something interesting. Then when you get there, you decide where you should go next. Head towards the light — as long as the light makes for interesting prose. You can't plan because you don't know where you're going, you don't know where you expect to get to or how you're going to get there. But you go, confident that your mind and imagination are always the best tour guides."

5. Ignore writing advice that doesn't work for you

Gary says: "If someone gives you some writing advice (like this) but you've got a better way, do that."


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