Last year, I caught my favorite poet, Billy Collins, at a reading in San Diego. In the interview section of the evening, Dean Nelson from Point Loma University asked him to share some advice he gives to his poetry students. Without having to think about it, Collins said, “Dare to be clear.”
Why is this significant?
He said writers who often want to come off as smarter or better skilled than they are will beat around the bush or spend too much time trying to convince the reader they are smart or interesting and fail to directly and clearly communicate whatever their point is.
“You know what my poem Fishing on the Susquehanna in July is about?” Collins asked. “It’s about Fishing on the Sisquehanna in July!”
The audience laughed, of course.
But I couldn’t help but think he was right.
Often what we want to say should just be said, not argued for, waxed eloquently around, or turned into a rhyme. We can just say it.