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The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

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Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poetsaspiring or practicingcan use to hone their craft, perhaps into art. Using examples from his own rich Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poets—aspiring or practicing—can use to hone their craft, perhaps into art. Using examples from his own rich literary oeuvre and from the work of a number of successful contemporary poets, the author schools us in the critical relationship between poet and reader, which is fundamental to what Kooser believes is poetry’s ultimate purpose: to reach other people and touch their hearts. Much more than a guidebook to writing and revising poems, this manual has all the comforts and merits of a long and enlightening conversation with a wise and patient old friend—a friend who is willing to share everything he’s learned about the art he’s spent a lifetime learning to execute so well.


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Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poetsaspiring or practicingcan use to hone their craft, perhaps into art. Using examples from his own rich Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poets—aspiring or practicing—can use to hone their craft, perhaps into art. Using examples from his own rich literary oeuvre and from the work of a number of successful contemporary poets, the author schools us in the critical relationship between poet and reader, which is fundamental to what Kooser believes is poetry’s ultimate purpose: to reach other people and touch their hearts. Much more than a guidebook to writing and revising poems, this manual has all the comforts and merits of a long and enlightening conversation with a wise and patient old friend—a friend who is willing to share everything he’s learned about the art he’s spent a lifetime learning to execute so well.

30 review for The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

  1. 5 out of 5

    rahul

    More from the book.. Let's say a head weighs so much because it may contain, among thousands of other images, the Grand Canyon or the rolling sea off Cape Hatteras. Tons of colorful stone, or slate-gray crashing water. Think how much just those two vistas weigh, complete with the heavy tourist traffic, thousands of screaming gulls, and the frightened look your little daughter had on her face when they brought her first lobster and set it before her, claws and all. The big bang theory of the origin More from the book.. Let's say a head weighs so much because it may contain, among thousands of other images, the Grand Canyon or the rolling sea off Cape Hatteras. Tons of colorful stone, or slate-gray crashing water. Think how much just those two vistas weigh, complete with the heavy tourist traffic, thousands of screaming gulls, and the frightened look your little daughter had on her face when they brought her first lobster and set it before her, claws and all. The big bang theory of the origin of the universe posits that everything came from a single, extremely dense speck. Everything was packed in there. This is just the way the brain is, and everything you know is stuffed inside. Walt Whitman said he contained multitudes, and he certainly put a lot of what he contained into Leaves of Grass. But he must have left out a lot. There are just so many things you can fit into a poem, even into a great book of poems like Leaves of Grass. ------------------------------------------------------ An excerpt... Poetry is a lot more important than poets. TOO MANY POETS? A noted contemporary poet and critic has said we ought to keep poetry a secret from the masses. Another, the editor of a prestigious anthology of poetry, said that each nation ought to have no more than a handful of poets. Both sound pretty elitist, don't they? Well, we'll always have among us those who think the best should be reserved for the few. Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there's a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you're writing your poem, there's one less scoundrel in the world. And I'd like a world, wouldn't you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I'm certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don't think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say "We loved the earth but could not stay."

  2. 5 out of 5

    David

    A couple months ago I was struck with an urge to read, write, and enjoy poetry. It was a convergence, I'm sure, of a variety of outside influences. I'd heard, for example, that writing poetry could infuse a person with almost magical writing power. Likewise, that reading it could open one's third eye and allow the seeing of truths, telepathic conversations with John Keats, psychokinesis, telekineses, force lightning, and mindsex. So I said, "why not?" and set about writing one poem every day A couple months ago I was struck with an urge to read, write, and enjoy poetry. It was a convergence, I'm sure, of a variety of outside influences. I'd heard, for example, that writing poetry could infuse a person with almost magical writing power. Likewise, that reading it could open one's third eye and allow the seeing of truths, telepathic conversations with John Keats, psychokinesis, telekineses, force lightning, and mindsex. So I said, "why not?" and set about writing one poem every day (along with a small illustration to accompany it. As of today, I'm at number 45). I figured I would eventually understand poetry through this deliberate practice. Unfortunately, while I did enjoy doing it as a form of regular recreational writing, it quickly became apparent that I wasn't going to get anywhere until I had a bit more guidance. A quick Amazon search turned up a bunch of titles. The Poetry Home Repair Manual? Hilarious! And it's written by a real United States Poet Laureate? Exactly what I was looking for. I've been reading this a few pages at a time for the last month. I would just pick it up whenever I have a minute or two to kill and read a couple pages. Or a single example poem. The book worked really well in these little spurts and the long absorption rate allowed me to really digest each point before moving on to the next. As a rank beginner (not only of writing poems - but also of reading them), I learned a very large amount from this book. I would have learned a lot from any poetry book, but I'm really glad I started with this one. I found Kooser's style of guidance to be completely unintimidating. At the same time, he does not mince words. For a jovial looking Midwesterner with a sweater and coffee mug and a grin in his dust jacket photo, he is surprisingly candid with his opinions about what makes a good poem and also where serious academic types can stick it! I bet being a poet laureate is like being Batman. When someone from the intellectual elite takes issue with your opinion and asks, "and who, exactly, are you?" you can reply, "I was the Poet Laureate Consultant to the Goddamn Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006. Ha ha!" and then throw a sleeping gas capsule into the group and write limericks on their unconscious foreheads. I think the most important thing that I personally took from the very many pieces of advice in this short book was the idea that a poem should make sense to its reader. You can be certain that after I'd absorbed that idea, I looked in horror upon my nascent creations. Oh dear, I was aping the very same opaque, confusing word-puzzle style I hated to read! What was I thinking? I was hinting at things as obliquely as possibly, using unusual words for their own sake, and generally crafting confusing, snobby pieces of crap. In my defense, I thought that's what poetry was. Just crack open this month's Atlantic or this week's New Yorker. The contemporary poetry I most often encounter in the wild is just absolutely...impenetrable. If you're like me and didn't major in English Literature, you're probably in the same boat. And you might be wondering if you're missing out on something. Well, that's when I realized that the poems I did like - some even to the point of memorizing them weren't the sort of things they publish in The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Certainly not! The ones I tend to like are the clear and concise kinds of things I learned as a child. Or song lyrics. You know, they sound fun; they even, gasp, rhyme! There are some examples of good, clear poems in this book. I can honestly say I liked some of them. Really, truly, liked. I also gained some other really important guidance. In no particular order, a poem: should be able to speak for itself and be enjoyed without you having to explain to the reader; may use emotion, but it is wise to avoid gushing; can paint a much more believable picture in the mind's eye if it contains a few unexpected specific details; should fit its form - line breaks shouldn't feel arbitrary, rhymes shouldn't feel forced; should use a simile or metaphor carefully - and not one when the other would be better. For me, the most easily applied and immediately effective advice in the book was: including unexpected detail. He gives great examples of expected detail and contrasts these with poems that use unexpected detail. I can't remember his examples, but imagine a description of a bakery that went, "it smelled of warm, inviting bread," versus one that went, "the freshly-baked bread sat under a heat lamp shaped like an enormous human foot." The difference is amazing: the poems with unexpected detail feel so much more real than those with bland and typical expected descriptions in them. It's truly a difference of night and day. This is one of those books that will likely reward re-readings at a later date. I'm certain I'll get as much new advice out of it after a year of reading and writing poetry as I did after only a couple weeks. Tags: poetry, poets laureate, metaphors, similes, ham cubes, mindsex

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Ted Kooser is a nice man. I knew from the minute I saw his photo on the back cover- an avuncular figure in a cable-knit sweater smiling blithely into the camera, a mug of something in his hand- that this would not be elitist, it would not be condescending and it would not be highflown.  This is a book for the intimidated and the uncertain, for the simple and the popular. There are the sorts of people who like poetry as poetry; not because it seems like they ought to like it, or because it fits Ted Kooser is a nice man. I knew from the minute I saw his photo on the back cover- an avuncular figure in a cable-knit sweater smiling blithely into the camera, a mug of something in his hand- that this would not be elitist, it would not be condescending and it would not be highflown.  This is a book for the intimidated and the uncertain, for the simple and the popular. There are the sorts of people who like poetry as poetry; not because it seems like they ought to like it, or because it fits into the image that  goatees, berets and French cigarettes are trying to project, but because they like the sounds of words, and the color of mental images and the chance to say what they are thinking and feeling, and that other chance (so much more slight) to toss their poems out into the open world to see if they might take up a home with Someone Else. It is this sort of person that poetry thrives on, and it is this sort of person that Ted Kooser is writing to.  He is not into the tortured-artist scene. Kooser has fun writing poems, and he suspects that a lot of other people will too. To that end, he begins with the basics- what a poet is anyway, the myth that you are going to get very famous and very rich doing this- and once he's got that out of the way he deals with the actual cement and screws of poetry: how to listen to a poem, to get a feel for the rise and fall of rhythm. But he simply puts the tools in your hand. This is the wrong place to look for an adoring analysis of the sonnet form- or any other form. 34 pages in, he tells you not to worry about the rules. And that is the essence of the book, that informs a lot of Kooser's own writing, and that might be the biggest lesson I took away from this little book. The rules of the poem ought never to get in the way of what the poem is meant to say. The audience (the all-important audience) isn't counting up your lines to see if you've constructed a proper sonnet; they are interested in what the poem says.  The rest of the book is dedicated to the source material for poems : memory, feeling- but again there is the reminder: "What does your poem say?" There are simple lessons in consistency of metaphor and image (much of which I found very helpful in tinkering with my current batch of poems), all designed to clarify your communication with the reader. This book offers up simple lessons, easily gotten elsewhere. But no less valuable for that. Any reluctant beginner would be happy for the encouragement. Any accomplished poet has probably already mastered these lessons, but the reminder is nice, especially coming from so genial a source. For those of us somewhere in the middle, Ted Kooser is an inspiration as well as an anchor. He frees us to write, while reminding us that it isn't only ourselves for whom we write.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    This slim little treatise offers some of the most practical, applicable advice on writing that I've come across yet. Kooser puts less emphasis on technical aspects of form and rhythm in favor of solid poetry that's written to be read, pointing out that the music is a less conscious process. It's friendly and encouraging - I found myself nodding in recognition of mistakes I make, proud to see things I already work on, and reaching for the highlighter often.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Samir Rawas Sarayji

    This is a really frank, personal and no-nonsense book with solid advice for starting poets or anyone interested in the crafting of good poetry. It's frank because the author shares some true gems of wisdom that can only be obtained after a lifetime of honing a craft (I'm thinking of the incredible passages about 'details'); and he uses his own examples as well as those of contemporary poets. It's personal because the author puts himself out there and shares his experiences, sharing his successes This is a really frank, personal and no-nonsense book with solid advice for starting poets or anyone interested in the crafting of good poetry. It's frank because the author shares some true gems of wisdom that can only be obtained after a lifetime of honing a craft (I'm thinking of the incredible passages about 'details'); and he uses his own examples as well as those of contemporary poets. It's personal because the author puts himself out there and shares his experiences, sharing his successes and his failures and the reality about poetry writing (don't do it for money, fame or chicks). It's no-nonsense because it doesn't try to be all inclusive (in fact he offers several good manuals to refer to if that's what the reader wants), instead he discusses techniques such as the power of similes, and shows their effectiveness in good poetry. He tells it like it is, and that's the beauty.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michal

    This is a favorite. The book is "as advertised" in the title, but is also much more in that it explains a lot about how poetry works, without taking away any of the magic. Another great book along these lines is How to Read a Poem and Start Poetry Circle by Molly Peacock.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Telaina

    This little powerhouse of a how-to has some outdated publishing and submission information in it--written before the explosion of Internet publishing and duotrope.com, but for craft advice, it can't be beat. Accessible for beginners and good reminders for those more advanced writers, Ted Kooser has given the world of poetry a generous gift. If you've ever had questions on how to break your lines, whether to use a metaphor or simile in a particular context and how and where to sprinkle those This little powerhouse of a how-to has some outdated publishing and submission information in it--written before the explosion of Internet publishing and duotrope.com, but for craft advice, it can't be beat. Accessible for beginners and good reminders for those more advanced writers, Ted Kooser has given the world of poetry a generous gift. If you've ever had questions on how to break your lines, whether to use a metaphor or simile in a particular context and how and where to sprinkle those adjectives and adverbs, this is your book. Highly recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Goff

    So, if Immersed in Verse is the funny childish love of poetry and awesome inspiration bit--then this baby is the "we're all-grown up, and now have settled down to work on art . . . but we haven't quite given up our sense of humor" bit. The advice is absolutely indispensable, and ought to be required reading for every aspiring poet. It's also a delight to read--just delicious. Please, oh please, read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    This is a marvelous book about words and writing, not just for poets but for prose writers too. Good stuff about the weight of a noun, and when the tentative quality of a simile works better than a strident metaphor. Kooser made me feel it was okay that I find I don't like a lot of poetry, and he made me identify why I don't like it, at the same time as he introduced me to some wonderful new-to-me poets. I rec to all.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    Kooser conducts a straightforward discussion of the role of poetry and devices beginners can employ to get started writing. Although this text is an informative, easy read, it's geared more towards the individual rather than a classroom setting. He doesn't attempt to 'teach' poetic styles; he presents poetic advice.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Hill

    More than practical advice for beginning poets, this is a book that all poets should have on their bookshelves. I especially enjoyed the chapter on "Fine-Tuning Metaphors and Similes" and the examples the author used to demonstrate the different techniques in writing. Each chapter includes helpful lessons as well as strong poems.

  12. 4 out of 5

    N.L. Riviezzo

    Of the variety of books on writing poetry that I have read, this is one of the most intriguing. It is an excellent source for beginners but has some thought-provoking information for those trying to fine-tune their poetic craft.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Jackson

    This is the best book I have found on poetry writing. There is no meaningless dribble, no painfully overstated professor talk. It helped me become a much better writer.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Gabriel

    Clear ideas on the craft of poetry revision and help for the beginning serious poet as well. Thoroughly enjoyed the voice and ideas.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deja

    I use this to teach beginning creative writers. Works like a champ. I don't agree with everything he says, and there's some stuff I really wish he'd say. But overall he does the job proud.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Deb Lund

    I've got loads of poetry manuals on my shelf, but this one? It's got voice like a well-done work of fiction.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Poiema

    The Poetry Home Repair Manual has really expanded my horizons, because prior to reading this I was mainly conversant with the "old" poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Keats, Longfellow, Dickinson. Ted opened me up to modern poetry, enlarged my repertoire, and gave me new ways to look at poetry. This was a book I stumbled upon by serendipity whilst enjoying a latte at Postscript, a fine stationery/bookstore in Ashland, Nebraska, one of my favorite haunts. By the time I finished my coffee, I knew The Poetry Home Repair Manual has really expanded my horizons, because prior to reading this I was mainly conversant with the "old" poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Keats, Longfellow, Dickinson. Ted opened me up to modern poetry, enlarged my repertoire, and gave me new ways to look at poetry. This was a book I stumbled upon by serendipity whilst enjoying a latte at Postscript, a fine stationery/bookstore in Ashland, Nebraska, one of my favorite haunts. By the time I finished my coffee, I knew I had to take this book home with me! Since then I have listened to Ted Kooser's poems on YouTube, and earmarked some of his other books for future enjoyment. Ted's "down home" insights make poetry accessible. I had to laugh at his analogy of a poem being like a styrofoam tray containing ham cubes, shrink wrapped at the grocer's: "The sonnet is the tray and the poem is the ham. All too often the tray is in charge of how the poem winds up looking. A villanelle tray or a sestina tray will hold just so much ham, and if you don't put enough meat on it, the poem looks like there's too much air in the package. It just doesn't have that sleek, shrink-wrapped feeling that you get when the form seems to extend from the meat itself. And if you put in more ham than the little tray can handle, the poem bulges and looks like it might pop open in your bag before you get home. Writing poems in fixed forms can be difficult because you have to carefully count and sort and place the ham cubes till they fit precisely on the tray. When it works, you've got something that looks just fine and doesn't call too much attention to itself. Your reader says, 'Oh, look, ham cubes. I'd better get some for the soup.'" His analogy is so. . . Nebraskan! As a fellow Nebraskan, I really enjoyed making acquaintance via this book. I also greatly enjoyed the modern poems he used as examples and intend to search out more from Jane Kenyan, Frank Steele, Linda Pastan, and a few others. And, if I ever decide to try my hand at writing poetry, this book will serve as an excellent guide!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jill Sprott

    I read this with my Poetry Workshop students this semester. One of Kooser's key points is that a poet must never forget the audience; like Billy Collins, he argues for crafting poetry that is accessible, and his humorous and engaging writing style proves that he does indeed practice what he preaches. What I appreciated most about Kooser's text is that it provides ample and explicit guidance, linking each piece of advice to specific poems from various writers. It also helps beginning poets to I read this with my Poetry Workshop students this semester. One of Kooser's key points is that a poet must never forget the audience; like Billy Collins, he argues for crafting poetry that is accessible, and his humorous and engaging writing style proves that he does indeed practice what he preaches. What I appreciated most about Kooser's text is that it provides ample and explicit guidance, linking each piece of advice to specific poems from various writers. It also helps beginning poets to contemplate the purpose of poetry and the philosophy that influences the choices that poets make. This, in turn, influenced my students' work in meaningful ways. Some of my students took issue with Ch. 6, in which Kooser criticizes “self-indulgent poetry” and excessive sentimentality and argues for a “a balance between restraint and expressions of feeling.” I can see how some might struggle with how to reconcile writing from the heart with avoiding sentimentality. The topic made for one of the most heated and memorable class discussions of the term, even though Kooser did lose a few fans after that chapter. If only because of the conversations that this book generated in my class, I will definitely be welcoming this book into Poetry Workshop again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Read this today in between things: waiting in the church parking lot, while I ate lunch, on a bench at the park watching my kids play, while I cooked dinner. Im going to read it again, slowly, to get more from it. But I loved Koosers voice here and the way he makes poetry accessible and possible for readers and writers. Read this today in between things: waiting in the church parking lot, while I ate lunch, on a bench at the park watching my kids play, while I cooked dinner. I’m going to read it again, slowly, to get more from it. But I loved Kooser’s voice here and the way he makes poetry accessible and possible for readers and writers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bill Keefe

    My third book looking to the what and how of writing and reading poetry (I guess it's actually my fourth but the first one sucked, so I already forgot it.). I'm not sure this is better than Mary Oliver's or Glyn Maxwell's; I'm really not sure. I am sure that I found this book thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting, interesting, readable, enlightening and educational. I know, Mr. Kooser, "educational" is such a dry, technical word, but this book educated me, in the best, warmest most personal way. Mr. My third book looking to the what and how of writing and reading poetry (I guess it's actually my fourth but the first one sucked, so I already forgot it.). I'm not sure this is better than Mary Oliver's or Glyn Maxwell's; I'm really not sure. I am sure that I found this book thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting, interesting, readable, enlightening and educational. I know, Mr. Kooser, "educational" is such a dry, technical word, but this book educated me, in the best, warmest most personal way. Mr. Kooser makes it clear that the poem starts with the true thought or emotion that leads you to write; form follows substance. Then he nudges you to look at your written thought as crafted poetry. No rights or wrongs but there is bad poetry, so some things are necessary, and many things need attention - the line, the movement or rhythm, the language, the images, they style and even the form. Mr. Maxwell better dramatizes the the effect of putting pen to paper, his is a visual book. You hover at the precipice of a line break. You can hear the emptiness in the white space before you move on. You gallop to different meters and stumble between stanzas as a line crosses the chasm. But Mr. Kooser walks you through everything with helpful and expert examples of his lessons in the contemporary poems he selects, poems that instruct and motivate. Through poems like "Hayfork," "Parents" and, "And I Raised My Hand in Return," he opens your eyes to the details of what makes a poem work - and what keeps it from not working. This is, after all, a book of "practical advice." Those words are in the title for a reason. Read the book; you will see that Mr. Kooser pays an awful lot of attention to titles.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sian Griffiths

    This book was highly recommended to me, but I have to say, I found it disappointing. The definition of poetry is extremely limited and limiting, and the advice for writing poetry is thus limited by that narrow definition. I've been debating with myself whether these limits are helpful to new writers (why overwhelm? why confuse?), but I just can't believe the narrowness is necessary. I've been reading Bob Hicok's WORDS FOR EMPTY AND WORDS FOR FULL alongside this one, and Hicok's book is This book was highly recommended to me, but I have to say, I found it disappointing. The definition of poetry is extremely limited and limiting, and the advice for writing poetry is thus limited by that narrow definition. I've been debating with myself whether these limits are helpful to new writers (why overwhelm? why confuse?), but I just can't believe the narrowness is necessary. I've been reading Bob Hicok's WORDS FOR EMPTY AND WORDS FOR FULL alongside this one, and Hicok's book is staggering me with its beauty, insight, wit, and intelligence, and yet it's far outside the examples/definition of poetry that Kooser provides. And so is Terrence Hayes and Maggie Nelson and so much of contemporary poetry. It's not that Kooser's sampling is poor. Many of the included poems are beautiful. But they are much of a muchness... mostly white writers, mostly lyric and with a lyric "I," mostly engaged with the natural world. Good stuff, but only one kind of stuff. Poetry is bigger than this definition. Beyond that, the advice on how to send work out for publication strikes me as painfully dated, even for 2005. (Advising against simultaneous submission? Really? And suggesting that if a poem receives 3-4 rejections, that it is seriously flawed? Maybe those are the standards for Pulitzer Prize winners, but for normal mortals, the standards must be lower.) Hopefully, new writers are looking at other sources of advice. All in all, some good basic wisdom, but much in need of supplementation and, for my taste, too over-simplified on the whole.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    I've selected The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by previous U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, as the "textbook" for my Fall poetry writing class twice now. I looked at a number of standard college texts on the subject (which tend to cost over a hundred dollars for a trade paperback), and I found them to be exhaustive, exhausting, and likely to be intimidating to undergraduates. And therefore likely to be unread. To take an example, the Wallace & Boisseau textbook spends the first five chapters, I've selected The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by previous U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, as the "textbook" for my Fall poetry writing class twice now. I looked at a number of standard college texts on the subject (which tend to cost over a hundred dollars for a trade paperback), and I found them to be exhaustive, exhausting, and likely to be intimidating to undergraduates. And therefore likely to be unread. To take an example, the Wallace & Boisseau textbook spends the first five chapters, over 140 pages, on form and the prosody of form. Do contemporary poets write and sell form?? Mostly not. Is a knowledge of form required to write contemporary poetry? No, not really. (It can be very useful, and I teach it, but I hold it for the last third of the term, once the students have learned enough to find prosody additive rather than obstructive.) So why, pray tell, would you set up the textbook that way?? Since I use this to teach, I won't go on in detail. But Kooser takes a practical, calm approach to the subject, and gives the reader enough to get going, and a reminder for those who are struggling. My only quibble is that near the end he forgets that most poets will have to spend some time in the minor leagues before they break through to the most prestigious magazines. He gives a bit of advice that amounts to "don't accept a contract in Major League Baseball unless it's a major-market franchise." Otherwise, his attitudes toward contemporary poetry generally mirror my own, so I find him wise.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    A short book. Well structured with short chapters. An easy going, friendly, conversational style: likeable imho. Wisely unambitious in the sense that Kooser doesn't make any attempt to be too comprehensive. Instead he opts to focus on a dozen important considerations - he could, I imagine, write a sequel. I think he does a good job by supporting his thoughts with examples taken from his own and other poet's work. He spends time fully fleshing out each of the perspectives he has chosen as a topic A short book. Well structured with short chapters. An easy going, friendly, conversational style: likeable imho. Wisely unambitious in the sense that Kooser doesn't make any attempt to be too comprehensive. Instead he opts to focus on a dozen important considerations - he could, I imagine, write a sequel. I think he does a good job by supporting his thoughts with examples taken from his own and other poet's work. He spends time fully fleshing out each of the perspectives he has chosen as a topic for each chapter. I enjoyed this book and it gave me something to think about wrt my own writing. I was also reading the book he co-authored Writing Brave, Writing Free but quickly dropped that in order to focus on this book. I like Kooser's down to earth, conversational style and may get back to WBWF but I am already reading Kooser's Local Wonders and have a couple more Kooser books on order. I recommend it for the real amateur poetry writer, specifically those that follow in the style of Kooser et al; writing poetry "for the reader", writing that should be easily understood, writing by poets fully in charge of the words rather than letting the words run away with meaning, writing poetry with clear images, clear and controlled intentions, poetry that uses poetic mechanisms as devices to create powerful effects and not for their own sake.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joe Haack

    I borrowed this book from the local library, but I will likely buy it. What did CS Lewis say? "Don't waste your time on a book you wouldn't read again and again?" Or, something like that. This book, at bottom, is an apologetic for Kooser's own philosophy of poetry. One I'll bet you'll agree with: the writer should serve the reader, love them even. He quotes Seamus Heaney to this effect - "The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into I borrowed this book from the local library, but I will likely buy it. What did CS Lewis say? "Don't waste your time on a book you wouldn't read again and again?" Or, something like that. This book, at bottom, is an apologetic for Kooser's own philosophy of poetry. One I'll bet you'll agree with: the writer should serve the reader, love them even. He quotes Seamus Heaney to this effect - "The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into the larger work of the community as a whole." It is also full of sane, practical advice for the poet. For instance: "If you can manage to do it, leave your poem alone till it begins to look as if somebody else might have written it... A poem must be equipped to thrive by itself in a largely indifferent world. You can't be there with it, like its parent, offering explanations, saying to a confused reader, 'Yes, but here's what I meant!' A poem has to do all of its own explaining." The book is also a great collection of contemporary poetry, if nothing else.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Quinn

    This slim volume is arguably the best how-to book on writing poetry that reads like a fascinating book. Kooser is a former U.S. poet laureate, but the book is down-to-earth, and deceptively simple. The book is divided into chapters that are also concerns for writers: First Impressions, Writing for Others, Writing from Memory as well as topics that poets need to address: Working with Detail, Controlling Effects, Don't Worry About the Rules. Every writer, poet or not, needs to have this useful, This slim volume is arguably the best how-to book on writing poetry that reads like a fascinating book. Kooser is a former U.S. poet laureate, but the book is down-to-earth, and deceptively simple. The book is divided into chapters that are also concerns for writers: First Impressions, Writing for Others, Writing from Memory as well as topics that poets need to address: Working with Detail, Controlling Effects, Don't Worry About the Rules. Every writer, poet or not, needs to have this useful, friendly, easy book on their shelf. Also contains excellent poems (both Kooser's and others) with commentary.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Wonderful. The subtitle of this book reads "Practical Advice for Beginning Poets" but I think it shoudl read 'for all poets.' This is a wonderful compendium of good common sense advice, full of ways at looking at language, ways of expressing yourself, writing exercises, prompts and tips. It's a no-nonsense look at a very ephemeral thing. But that is no surprise coming from Ted Kooser. He's as down to earth as they come. Highly recommended for anyone interested in reading or writing poetry. It Wonderful. The subtitle of this book reads "Practical Advice for Beginning Poets" but I think it shoudl read 'for all poets.' This is a wonderful compendium of good common sense advice, full of ways at looking at language, ways of expressing yourself, writing exercises, prompts and tips. It's a no-nonsense look at a very ephemeral thing. But that is no surprise coming from Ted Kooser. He's as down to earth as they come. Highly recommended for anyone interested in reading or writing poetry. It will give you a new perspective on the form, or perhaps reinforce things you knew already. I rarely use the star system, but this one easily breezes through its five. Own it, flag it, highlight it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate Vogl

    Loving this line, I'm paraphrasing his quote from John Fowles: You don't get the audience from preaching and philosophizing, but from the baser tricks of the trade - from wooing the reader into the palm of your hand. A great book for writing basics, whether in prose or in poetry. Good for me to see the poetry equivalent to the prose I've been teaching my students - and his added insights on controlling metaphors and similes. In this world where we rush to crank out a novel in one month, good to Loving this line, I'm paraphrasing his quote from John Fowles: You don't get the audience from preaching and philosophizing, but from the baser tricks of the trade - from wooing the reader into the palm of your hand. A great book for writing basics, whether in prose or in poetry. Good for me to see the poetry equivalent to the prose I've been teaching my students - and his added insights on controlling metaphors and similes. In this world where we rush to crank out a novel in one month, good to take in his advice to let our writing sit, so we may return to it with a cooler eye - and a sharpened pencil.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kyra

    Basically Kooser reminding contemporary poets to have less fun and stop being overly complicated...which does have it's place, sometimes. There really are decent tips in here, things I know I shall keep in mind, things I know will improve my writing. Overall, however, it feels very pessimistic. Kooser and I live around the same parts and I feel like he might be one of the old men who would tell me to get off his lawn but then offer me iced tea and let me pet his dog while telling me about why Basically Kooser reminding contemporary poets to have less fun and stop being overly complicated...which does have it's place, sometimes. There really are decent tips in here, things I know I shall keep in mind, things I know will improve my writing. Overall, however, it feels very pessimistic. Kooser and I live around the same parts and I feel like he might be one of the old men who would tell me to get off his lawn but then offer me iced tea and let me pet his dog while telling me about why kids these days are entitled. Not the worst but not the best.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    This is a very helpful book for beginning poets. Kooser demystifies the process of writing and editing poems without being overly technical.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This particular book was written by poet laureate Ted Kooser for beginning poets, and as someone who has been writing poems for at least a couple of decades I am by no means a beginning poet.   All the same, the advice given is worthwhile and the book includes a great deal of very worthwhile poetry and so this is a book that I can celebrate and that I think is worthy of at least being remembered by those who are more seasoned or experienced writer.   Sometimes advice given to beginners by This particular book was written by poet laureate Ted Kooser for beginning poets, and as someone who has been writing poems for at least a couple of decades I am by no means a beginning poet.   All the same, the advice given is worthwhile and the book includes a great deal of very worthwhile poetry and so this is a book that I can celebrate and that I think is worthy of at least being remembered by those who are more seasoned or experienced writer.   Sometimes advice given to beginners by someone who has reached the pinnacle of his field can be useful to those who have written a lot but who may not have remembered the sort of lessons that this book helpfully gives, especially when it comes to being an appreciative audience for the poetry of others, even if some of us (myself included) tend to be rather critical about what we read.  This book is full of criticism, but manages to deliver it gently and graciously and even encouragingly, all of which is something that ought to be appreciated by the book's novice poet readers. This particular book is a short one at just over 150 pages, and it is divided into twelve chapters.  The book begins with acknowledgements and some notes about the book.  After that the author talks about a poet's job description (1) and the healthy reminder that poets do not tend to make a lot of money as poets, followed by a discussion of what it means to write for others (2) and not only oneself.  After that the author discusses first impressions of poetry (3) and gives advice to poets not to worry about rules (4) as well as some comments about rhymes as well as prose poetry (5).  The poet spends some time discussing writing about feelings (6) as well as the importance of being able to read a poem through one's poem (7).  Then the poet discusses writing from memory (8) and working with detail (9) as well as controlling the effects of one's writing through careful choices (10) made in writing.  After this comes a discussion on how a writer can fine-tune metaphors and similes to maximize he impact of one's writings (11) as well as the importance of relaxing and waiting (12), after which the book ends with some source references and some more acknowledgements, because apparently the author likes to acknowledge a great deal. What does this book do for beginning poets (and other readers)?  Well, the author sets the expectations of poetry properly, pointing out the importance of having poetic diction and understanding something of the differences between poetry and prose and the flexibility that poets have in seeking to convey their thoughts and feelings in various poetic forms.  The author sets expectations as well in terms of reminding the poet that few people read poetry and that poets do not tend to make money unless they are literature teachers rather than simply poets, so that no one goes into poetry expecting it to be particularly profitable in an economic sense.  Also, and perhaps most importantly, this book provides the reader with some examples of very good poetry from the author's own body of work as well as other poems that the author appreciates, and these poems can serve as an inspiration to new poets and as examples of the success that good poetry can bring in terms of receiving the respect and honor of other poets.  Such actions are likely to encourage goodwill on the part of the reader for good poetry and hopefully inspire a great many more people to hone and improve their poetic voice.

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