Trade Secrets: the Bard Sell

One Monday evening in May, 12 writers gathered upstairs at the Free Word Centre to spend a few hours learning how to use poetic techniques to spice up our commercial writing. The workshop had been billed as the Bard Sell, and with Rishi Dastidar in the driving seat, it most certainly did not disappoint.

We started off by sharing our favourite lines of poetry (at which point my mind immediately went blank). Lovely words from Donne, Wordsworth, Sylvia Plath and Spike Milligan relaxed the room and set the tone. With inimitable style, Rishi then took us through eight poetic techniques – from enjambment to eyeball kicks – each illustrated with a reading and embedded through a bit of writing. We played around with everything from an annual report to the 48 Laws of Power, and I ended the night by writing a poem to a zipper.

It was fun; it was inspiring; it was both creative and practical. Here’s a taste of Rishi’s advice:

  • Most poem titles are rubbish. This should be the calling card, and wrestle people in to want to read it.
  • Forcing breaks in unusual places is a way of making things interesting. (This even works with annual report copy!)
  • Putting words together based on their sound can help you find unexpected connections.
  • Interesting verbs lift your prose – don’t go for the obvious one.
  • Be bold with your first drafts – you can always pull it back.

As Rishi pointed out, a few of the techniques he shared were really more attitudes than techniques. A writer’s mindset is critical. His final words? ‘Think like a poet.’

Heather Atchison

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