Advice to a New Writer

Forlorn PoetI’ve been writing and publishing poetry for half a century. Now and then I receive enquiries from people starting out to be a writers, asking me to read their manuscripts (for nothing) and tell them what they should do to become a famous published poet, or at least a published poet. I don’t have the time or the inclination to read poetry manuscripts or to write personal letters, and since what I say is always the same, here it is.

Find another career.

Please. Take up etching, or photography. Work the midnight to dawn shift in a fast food takeaway joint, become a university student, drop out, hitch-hike around the world, work in the pay office of a military repatriation unit, be a mail delivery person, operate a process camera and develop printing plates in a print workshop, edit English translations of television subtitles in a dozen foreign languages, direct radio plays, sweep the floors at an art gallery, drive an old limousine for a living. I have done all those things. You will meet a better class of people, have more fun and lead a more valuable life. But if you insist on being a poet, read on.

Here’s what you need to do. In brief:

— Read widely.
— If you can manage it, travel.
— Write a lot, and then rewrite a lot.
— Publish persistently in a wide range of poetry magazines.
— Pay attention to the feedback you receive.
— Give up the idea that you will ever be famous or even well-known. You won’t.
— Obtain a job that you like and submerge yourself in the human race. These people are the reason you write poems.
— Stay away from charlatans, sycophants and famous writers.

[continued on my Main Site here.]