Writing Lessons Pulled From Poetry

jazz-funeral-julie-kaneIn 2009, I posted writing advice from one of my mentors, Maurice Cottingham. Maurice told me that one of the best ways to end a story was with a great quote.

I’ve extended his advice somewhat; I think one of the best ways to end a story is with anything great. A zinger; a twist; a joke; anything that causes you to catch your breath, smile, laugh, nod your head, or think.

I believe this advice applies not just to feature stories, which Maurice meant, but also to case studies, web content … even brochure copy. Any place you want to hook a reader.

In my original post, I highlighted Maurice’s point using “New York Notes,” a poem I heard on The Writer’s Almanac.

I’ll do the same today, this time using Julie Kane’s poem “Used Book.” I heard this in the car, driving back to my office from an appointment.

Used Book
What luck—an open bookstore up ahead
as rain lashed awnings over Royal Street,
and then to find the books were secondhand,
with one whole wall assigned to poetry;
and then, as if that wasn’t luck enough,
to find, between Jarrell and Weldon Kees,
the blue-on-cream, familiar backbone of
my chapbook, out of print since ’83—
its cover very slightly coffee-stained,
but aging (all in all) no worse than flesh
though all those cycles of the seasons since
its publication by a London press.
Then, out of luck, I read the name inside:
The man I thought would love me till I died.

If that ending doesn’t take your breath away, I don’t know what will.
This post was originally written and published by Samantha Enslen in 2011. 



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