Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

cb16-1-30_prevIn the space of one month and one week, from February 6 to March 13, Emmy Award-winner and Prairie Schooner editor Kwame Dawes dished out thirteen writing tips for poets on twitter. The tweets, which we covered in our monthly literary digest for February, are essentially the do’s and don’t’s of writing poetry, and to an extent, writing in general. They include things to be wary of, one or two warnings, as well as suggested moderation on the use of similes and metaphors.

Also a critic, actor and musician, Kwame Dawes is a revered figure in literary circles. The Ghanaian professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is famed for his artistic generosity and received the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, which honours writers who have used their position to create opportunities for other writers in the literary community. He established the South Carolina Poetry Prize and, alongside Chris Abani, edits Africa Poetry Book Fund’s annual New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set, which is published by Akashic Books.

His 19th poetry collection, the much-praised City of Bones: A Testament, was published this January.

Read his tweets below, with their dates.

  1. Feb 6. Banned: The metaphorical heart. “Heartburn” is allowed, however. “Heartache,” too, only if a coronary is involved.
  2. Feb 8. The moon is always “distant.” It’s not like we are going to forget.
  3. Feb 10. Why not just call them “line-fractures” or “fractured lines” if that’s what you really mean? It’s a line ending, people.
  4. Feb 13. Only one poem about writing poems a year. They are all the same poem written when we have nothing to say.
  5. Feb 15. Epigraphs. From the Bible, always use original Hebrew or Greek—it throws off the God-haters, and you get to look smart.
  6. Feb 20. Prose poems: they might be double-agents, be on the alert.
  7. Feb 22. If the poem came from God, don’t ask me to edit God.
  8. Mar 1. Whose inept idea was it to ban articles and natural syntax from English language haiku?
  9. Mar 3. Metaphors are hams, divas; they hate to share the limelight and too many in a room can be blinding.
  10. Mar 7. A simile in a simile in a simile in a simile is a brilliant parlor trick, yes, but it’s not great for poems.
  11. Mar 8. Rhyming is one of the most under-appreciated forms poetic of improvisation.
  12. Mar 10. More often than not a well chosen verb makes an adjective superfluous.
  13. Mar 13. This just in: “Gloaming” has been banned from poetry, especially Irish themed poems.


Post image from via Google.

Tags: , , ,

Otosirieze Nnaemekaram is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop facilitated by Giles Foden. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories and is working on a 600-page novel. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."


The Nervous Conditions of the Mother Tongue | Mapule Mohulatsi

Selves - An Afro Anthology of Creative Nonfiction (2)

We are republishing select pieces from Selves: An Afro Anthology of Creative Nonfiction, curated by Basit Jamiu and introduced by […]

Introducing Brittle Paper’s Brunel Prize Poems Review Series

brunel 2018 shortlist

The entry of African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) expanded in more than one way the African literary scene. With its […]

WATCH | Jalada Mobile Literary and Arts Festival in Kampala and Kabale

jalada psmag

In 2017, the pan-African collective Jalada Africa announced a mega-step: a mobile literary festival covering five countries in East Africa. The Jalada […]

Review | Cassava Republic’s “She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak” | Cisi Eze


Anthology: She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak. Curators: Azeenarh Mohammed, Chitra Nagarajan, and Rafeeat Aliyu. Genre: Non-Fiction, LBTQ […]

The Caine Prize Is Alright. Right?


Something is happening at the Caine Prize. Here at Brittle Paper, our role has been to support African literary institutions […]

Chike Frankie Edozien’s Lives of Great Men Is a Finalist for the 2018 Publishing Triangle Awards

lives of great men copies

Chike Frankie Edozien’s Lives of Great Men is a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Awards, in the Randy Shilts Award […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.