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Read yourself as a stranger

Remember your reading voice, how you sound when you read your own work aloud (assuming that you read aloud as a test of your tone, meter and rhythm)? Well, that is your comfort zone, the place where you create and revise with a degree of tension, agony and exhilaration. You know when you are there. You can feel it, a certain quickening of the pulse and shallowness of breaths that keeps you at your desk. And it is a place where you forget time so that if you check a clock you are surprised by how fast the last hour passed by.

Now do the opposite of that comfortable rigour (not rigor mortis). Read yourself as a stranger. You do not know any of the above. Negate it as a deliberate act. This means you put the poem or prose into a strange font (goodbye Times New Roman and the tyranny of comfort thereof), take your name off it (welcome nameless selves) and read it as if someone else wrote it. The act of reading numerous personas as a stranger opens a critical space in you which allows you to be ruthless with the piece of life before your eyes in ways that provenance of authorship prevents you from doing by making you protective of the work.

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‘Heart’ words vs ‘Head’ words

As writers in English, we are in a uniquely privileged position, being able to choose between two languages…

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Head language and heart language

The short story, in its own kingdom between the novel and poetry, gets the best of both worlds….

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Restricted diction

You can learn a great deal about how language works, and about the sort of poetry you want…

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Working out the line breaks of a poem

Below is a poem from my second collection, Gunga Jumna (Sky Earth). It’s about imagining going back to…

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Style, voice and sentence

For writers sentences are both the object of their craft and the tools they use to do their…

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Serious nonsense

Coining neologisms (or new words) is a great way to think about sound in your poetry, whilst also…

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