Vivid Images are the Keys to Freedom

‘I urge you to trust sensuous details to release you from the traps of easy clichés and vague and flabby writing.  Defy the odds.  Work hard, and believe in the powers of the imagination. Vivid specifics are keys to freedom.  Muscle-up your poems with details that surprise you; they will surprise us, too… 

‘Share with us, through details, specific images.  Don’t merely tell us about something.  Render us through an experience, with images, sounds, and rhythm, in tight, concise lines.  Don’t be vague or obscure; don’t keep the experience hidden in your cupped hands. 

‘Appeal to the senses; give specifics, details, for intensity.  Open our eyes to the splendors of your imagination; delight us.  A poem is not an ink blot.  Therefore, go beyond first drafts; don’t send off poems that read like statements…
‘The activity itself will reward you, the doing of it, the muscle tone you develop only by effort.  “Ripeness is all,” Shakespeare wrote.  Work for the night is coming.  Be active, ready for what you will discover.  I promise three words, if you work hard: “Delight in discovery.”’


– Walt MacDonald, ‘Advice I wish I’d Been Told’
Valparaiso Poetry Review, Fall/Winter 1999-2000





Meant for poetry, it’s just as true for studio.