Copywriting and Literary Art

When is writing a job, and when is it art?

On the highly engaging ‘Anecdotal Evidence’ blog, a really interesting interview transcript, from a talk by poet (and associate creative director) L.E. Sissman from January 1972. Sissman looks at what is both similar and different about writing poety and creative copy:

Copywriting should always be precise, true, purposely literal. Poetry should always be ambiguous—i.e., capable of being read different ways at different levels. You work for compression but you’re building a skyscraper on your little plot. Obviously, I don’t mean copywriting should be devoid of humor, nuance, or colloquialism, but I think it ought to give the reader as honest an account of the good points of the product or service as possible, and without equivocation or weaseling …

Copywriting is evanescent and poetry is, the poet hopes like hell, perduring, but there are a lot of similarities otherwise. Copywriting teaches you to say exactly what you mean in the fewest possible words the first time around and under pressure of time [as does journalism]. This is a valuable lesson for the poet.

It’s worth reading in full.

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