If you’ve read my about page then by now you know that I am currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing (specialising in poetry) at Bath Spa University. I’ve been a part of Bath Spa since 2013 now, working towards a kind of clarity of my own writing and goals. It took me one lecture in my first year (taught by poet Carrie Etter) and a recitation of a line by Charles Wright in his poem Clear Night;
I want to be bruised by God.
to realise I wanted to pursue poetry. In my second year I explored spoken word and performance poetry with my internship with Rhyme and Reason in Bath, and whilst I eventually moved away from that genre of poetry, my time there was invaluable. In my third year I realised the kind of poetry I wanted to write, poetry that spoke to me as a queer woman in, then, 2016.
But it took me until my masters to find my poetic voice. I learnt my love of the long line. I discovered new influences – both in new poets and reading novels from my context modules – and began to form my support network of poets. I have learnt so much from my masters that I can only recommend a postgraduate to anyone who is considering one (and with the new handy-dandy postgrad loan it’s so much easier than its ever been).
But arguably one of the most important things I have learnt on the masters in regards to my poetry, and the reason for the title that has thus far been eluding this post, is working on the endings of my poems. Endings are hard. So are titles, and all that stuff in the middle too, but endings were my Everest. They let down every one of my poems and I simply didn’t realise it. I had no idea what was weakening my poem until my tutor, Tim Liardet, went through my first portfolio and circled every last line in red pen. Every. Single. One.
Needless to say, that stung.
Even when I was told it was my ending I had no idea how to fix them. I got given so much advice. To rephrase, to elongate the lines, to bring the final line up into the previous line, to simply cut it altogether, and mainly to ‘stop doing these tricksy endings, they’re cheap and you’re better than that.’
Nothing stuck. Until, finally, something did.
Stop Using Your Endings To Summarise Meaning.
This was the first time it had been put into direct terms exactly what I’d been doing. I’d write a poem and then panic out my endings and write a final line that basically just said everything the poem had been trying to say, which completely undermined everything that had come before it. I’m still trying to beat this tic out of me, but I’m getting there.
Now this does seem very personal and if you’re reading this you might not be sure how or why this applies to you in something I’m tentatively calling an ‘advice’ series. But this series is going to be passing on the small bits of advice I’ve learnt from my masters and, honestly, this is something that anyone can improve on. The ending is the last part of your work that a reader sees and leaving them on a sour note is a sure-fire way to lose readers.
So, in closing;