I recently assisted a client with an evaluation of a poem. The process highlighted how, even when working in formats as dynamic as verse, it’s often the formal considerations that make or break a work of literature.
It is wrong to think of formal considerations as constraints on writer’s imagination. I was astonished, when I looked back at my report on what was, to begin with, a highly developed and accomplished work, to find that the majority of my comments concerned formal issues – repetitions used, patterns established within the verse and the way those patterns functioned. Even small punctuation decisions affected the reading of the work.
In the process of analysing this work my own fascination with highly formal sonnet forms suddenly made sense.
Far from forcing me into literary corners I find that working within pre-defined constraints requires me to take unexpected deviations. It causes me to look under rocks I would otherwise leave unturned. So whether it’s iambic pentameter or a tight word count, sometimes the best way to free up your creative writing is to force it into unfamiliar places.
May your words pour onto the page,
Richard Holt’s ‘The Falls Track’ has been longlisted for the 2014 Margaret River Short Story Competition, and his story ‘Fading Towards Infinity’ was published in the January 2015 fiction edition of the Victorian Writer.