Trust Your Reader

To celebrate the start of our first Magpie Award poetry contest, let me honour Max Plater, a poet from my very first writer’s group who passed along the best writing advice I ever received: trust your reader. As I continue to work through the submissions pile in our inbox, it is clear in the first paragraph which writers have learned to trust and respect their audience’s ability to perceive and follow the delicate rabbit trail. The writers with a true voice, that elusive quality so much sought and praised, reveal an intense intimacy and vulnerability (even if it is only leaked through the cracks.) Lesser writers smack of explanation, of grand action spelled with capital letters, and leave no room for lingering footnotes in the reader’s mind. The Golden Rule of Writing is this: trust your reader as you trust yourself. A writer must dig inside his own soul, wrestle with his art, and dare to go all the way down the rabbit hole. Because if he does, we’ll follow.

Between Us 

Above dry canyons where our worlds meet

not one word is lost between us

We step across them on a string bridge.

–Max Plater, Winter Fires (1998, Exile Editions)

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