To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Saturday, August 18, 2012

'Prune dear, prune'

Peter Skrzynecki visited the Fellowship of Australian Writers' Southern Highlands Chapter today and gave a multitude of good advice and encouragement. He also shared some of his life story and some of the inspiration for his writing. Of the advice Skryznecki gave the one piece that will stick with me, which resonates with the advice that David Brooks gave in the workshop I did with him, is "prune dear, prune". This was something that Judith Wright told Skrzynecki after she read his first book. What I take from this advice is that a good piece of writing must be well edited. Skryznecki told us how Raymond Carver's first editor used to get Carver to cut a twenty word sentence in half to ten words, while still holding the same meaning. Once Carver had done this the editor would say, 'good, now cut it to five words'. This is an important technique for all forms of writing, to avoid waffling, but I believe it is especially important in poetry. A poem is so short that every word must be essential to the meaning and architecture of the poem.

Here is a little writing exercise, not a poem, but still a fun task. I had to write 100 words on the theme of 'whisper'. I really enjoyed writing this, which I haven't enjoyed writing fiction in a while. Could be the start of a short story.


“What do you want? Well come on it’s not hard. What do you want?” 

He points at the menu, resting his finger underneath ‘steak sandwich $18’. He can taste it already, the rare, finely slithered flesh with just enough hot mustard to create a tickling sensation in his noise, the firm crust of the sourdough, the subtle crispness of the rocket leaves and the smooth oiliness of the avocado.

“You don’t want that. Look at the price, that’s an indicator of how big the meal is. You won’t want dinner…”

He glances over his shoulder, if only she would whisper.


  1. Love it, Rhiannon! and yes - definitely could be the start of a short story (though you have encapsulated so much already in your 100 words!)

    I found Peter very inspiring, too - my writer's pen has been idle for too long, and I think it's time I got the juices flowiung again!!

  2. Thanks Kerry! My problem at the moment is that I have too many creative ideas floating around my brain, that I am not focusing on the theoretical work I should be doing... Just two more months, then I can write poetry to my hearts content!! ;-)

  3. Hey, Rhiannon. Hoping all is well. Of course, pruning is important. Knowing exactly WHAT the hell to prune is the hardest part, the crucial part. There are a lot of big deal poets out there who write rambling, overblown poems that lose their effectiveness because they didn't stop earlier. I suggest you read published poems by accomplished Australians and end them earlier than where the poet ended them. If you want to know how to prune, read Dorothy Porter and Aidan Coleman's work extensively. They are the masters, I reckon. They do economy better than an parliamentary treasurer. Peace and light, Lorne