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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The best fit

If you subscribe to Writing Magazine or regularly buy the monthly issue then look out for this month's edition (April issue) as there is a terrific feature on p. 51: 'Prosetry in motion.' Okay, yes this is another pathetic plug for the Indoor Writer, but she is rather pleased with this articles and for once they didn't change the title!

Inspiration for the article came from attending monthly workshops of her poetry group (Slipstream poets). A recent meeting focused on the importance of selecting the right word. This is a key skill to any writer, but if you analyse a poem or piece of prose you soon realise every writer chooses their own 'right' words as a best fit. We looked at several poems by famous names where key words had been blanked out. In assessing what words we would insert demonstrated that everyone thinks differently, as we all came up with surprisingly different choices. It also demonstrated that true poets come from a different planet, as we rarely chose the words they actually wrote.

For example we reviewed the first stanza of Philip Larkin's poem 'Church Going' as follows. And were asked to consider what words might best fit into the gaps...  (note: the number of spaces doesn't indicate letters)

"Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door ....1.... shut.
Another church: matting, seats and stone.
And little books: .....2.. of flowers, cut
For Sunday, .....3... now; some brass and stuff
Up at the .....4.... end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty .....5.... silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in .....6..... reverence."

Have a go then look below at the words Larkin considered as his best fit. How did you do?

1. thud
2. sprawlings
3. brownish
4. holy
5. unignorable
6. awkward

This is probably a good game to play at Xmas, with a bunch of poets of course!

And you could try this final exercise. Pick a picture or photo and pen a few lines of poetry to describe the scene. Then blank out several words and swap the piece with another writer. Each writer then fills in the gaps of their partner's poem. It's quite astonishing to see the end results. From one piece of writing you end up with two entirely different poems simply because each writer selects quite different words - despite looking at the same picture/photo for inspiration. Shows how unique our writing choices can be.


  1. I haven't read your article yet but I have the magazine in my teetering 'to read' pile.

    1. Hope you like it. I have a similar scary pile of mags and books to read, but it's the fun part of being a writer huh?

  2. This is brilliant, Tracy. My family all love this type of game at Christmas so we shall give it a go (although I may have to get you to remind me of how to play nearer the time). A great article in Writing Mag.

    1. Thanks Wendy. This is quite fun if you can pick poems that aren't too well known.

  3. That's interesting. I didn't pick any words remotely similar to the ones Larkin used. (Obviously he was much more poetic than me!)

    1. I think this shows a poet's brain is wired quite differently...

  4. Congratulations on the article, Tracey!

  5. Haven't read it yet, but I get that mag, Tracy - looking forward to it!