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Matt Morris

To Make a Poem Work

cut everything nonessential you want

an economy of language that forces 

words to work with the greatest efficiency 


either they work hard or they don’t work at all 

whatever isn’t truly necessary

no matter how finely phrased or beautiful 


must go your poem should scream austerity 

let me be painfully clear there’s no safety

net to fall back on for those that don’t work grant


them no home in your poem remember hunger

too has proven throughout history to be

an effective motivator think of lines


as villagers starved into submission by

marauding hordes of warlords & I’m sure you’ll

start to see what I mean some poems might require


yet additional cuts this may sound harsh but 

it’s like pruning a plant clip it just below 

the nodes & in time a more vibrant flower


blooms likewise the poem stripped to the bone will grow 

to conform with design always keep in mind

everything even free verse must conform or 


the result would be anarchy in closing

if you follow these rules your poor joyless poem

should work tout de suite if not consider fire

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