Escape Routes

Once readers are attracted into a poem by the title and first lines, keep them there. Control the path their attention takes, don't let it wander. Engage all their senses and mental capabilities: sight and sound, emotion and intellect. Bar exits, or better still, loop the obvious exits back into the poem. If your poem is portentious, anticipate their response - add self-mockery, perhaps by introducing a clown character. If your work is tragic, provide relief within the poem rather than letting the reader out. Remember that the reader is likely to flee towards safe and easy interpretations, so make the simple route lead deeper into the maze. If you design the poem well, the only choice for the reader is to dig an escape tunnel - the deeper the better.

And once they visit, make them come again by providing sections that need re-reading.


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Tim Love, July 1998.
tpl@eng.cam.ac.uk