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
And once they visit, make them come again by providing sections
that need re-reading.
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Tim Love, July 1998.