I’ve just received my copy of Andrew Motion’s ‘Laurels and Donkeys’ and reread the ‘Death of Harry Patch’. Once again I was struck by the strength of Motion’s image – just one – beautifully drawn and not overwritten. The poem is very much stronger because of its simplicity.
My own work is often image-rich, perhaps overly so, and I am determined to resist the impulse to throw in every idea that comes to mind and just hone one until it is clear and polished. The old ‘less is more’ idea!
There are several of these pearls of writing wisdom, and along with many others I groan each time they are repeated…less is more, show don’t tell, kill your darlings…but every so often it pays to bring them to mind and apply them to the current work in progress. I can guarantee that each time I do so I find substantial rewrites are required.
I was also relieved to find that the donkeys of Motion’s title poem is not a reference to soldiers carrying massive loads, as in Afghanistan today. I have mentioned before that the insurgents use the term as an insult to the Allied troops who are often burdened with heavy kit as well as body armour and weapons, and it is an idea I am exploring with a poem in mind. I am pleased that I do not have to ditch it because it has been done before.
Another interesting thing about the ‘Laurels and Donkeys’ collection is that at least half the profits from sales of the book will go to the Royal Marines’ ‘Recovery – Rehabilitation – Reintegration’ Charity. Also it was not available on Amazon. I wonder why? If anyone knows, I would like to hear what the reason is…