Writing Tip by Sholeh Wolpe

Five nails to hammer into your writing desk:

–A poem is a sauce you simmer and simmer until your reach its potent and aromatic essence.  This you do with editing.  Learn to edit your work.  It’s an art.  It’s a skill.

–Use metaphors to render the most ordinary into extraordinary.

–Jack Gilbert in his poem, “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart,” (The Great Fires Poems, Knopf, 1984) writes about the simple Sumerian tablets that are assumed to be simple business transactions, as love poems:

…When the thousands

of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,

they seemed to be business records. But what if they

are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve

Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.

O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,

as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.


–Give your readers something to recognize or relate to, then surprise them by nudging them into a different direction.

— And finally, feel fully authorized to recreate language.

Biography of Sholeh Wolpé: Sholeh Wolpé is the author of Rooftops of Tehran, Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, and The Scar Saloon. She is the associate editor of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (Norton, 2010), and the editor of the 2010 Iran issue of Atlanta Review. Her poems, translations, essays and reviews have appeared in scores of literary journals, periodicals and anthologies worldwide.  Sholeh was born in Iran and presently lives in Los Angeles.  For more info: www.sholehwolpe.com.

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