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A Poet's Guide to Poetry (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) Paperback – April, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0226437392 ISBN-10: 0226437396 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known for her poetry (Ghost Ship) and for cogent critical essays (The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose), Kinzie here joins the crowd of poets explaining poetry to beginners (see "notes" below)Aand distinguishes herself. Mixing her own theories in with more widely shared axioms, Kinzie manages to cover the basics while shedding new light on line break, syntax and sentence. "Understanding poems as both embedded in progression and indebted to surprise," Kinzie shows how features like rhyme work sometimes as foreground, sometimes as backgroundAphenomena she dubs "recession of technique." Anticipating the needs of students who will encounter her Guide as a textbook or reference work, Kinzie has wisely designed the book to be used alongside a comprehensive poetry anthology (and recommends several). Her quotes and references come mostly and unapologetically from a particular tradition that emphasizes form and control: Thomas Hardy, Louise Bogan, Edwin Muir and the remarkable Julia Randall turn up a lot, while Pound and Williams scarcely appear. Her Guide concludes with a set of provocative exercises, a glossary, and a very knowledgeable bibliography. But sophistication of argument, charming idiosyncrasies of taste, and a refusal to condescend are what really make Kinzie's book stand out.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kinzie, a poet, critic, and director of the creative writing program at Northwestern University, knows her stuff. This is a sound reference book for any writer wishing to better understand the dynamics of poetry. The book is organized around six elements of style: line, syntax, diction, trope, rhetoric, and rhythm. While reasserting the claim of poetry as art, Kinzie balances the approaches (and risks) that tradition, technique, and meaning afford in the shaping of verse. Her organization asserts that the chief mechanism of thought is the sentence, and from its elegance bigger notions are built. Particularly strong is Kinzie's commitment to revealing the dynamics of how sounds and rhythms qualify thought units, vehicle qualifies tenor, and parallels continuously cooperate. While scholarly, this is also clear, unpedantic, and substantive. A good complement to the reliable verse handbooks of Louis Turco and Alfred Corn or Joseph Malof's Manual of English Meters (Greenwood, 1978).?Scott Hightower, NYU/Gallatin, New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Paperback: 572 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226437396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226437392
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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94 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Oaks on February 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm using Kinzie's book right now in a poetry class I teach. I think it's one of the few books to actually talk about the kinds of tensions that make poems work and not work. I'm especially impressed by her discussions of the way lines and sentences work with and at times against one another. I haven't read in any of the recent crop of books on prosody anything about the relationship of sentence to line, which makes Kinzie's work all the more exciting and original. And smart. I recommend this book to anyone who's really interested in the kinds of questions all poets must face. I wish someone would've given me this much information before I got to grad school. It's a terrific book, and not so hard to understand as the numbers of pages might suggest.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By B. Gadberry on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
In her Introduction, Kinzie says "Those who have a wide acquaintance with with poetry... will, I hope, find the view of the artistic process... properly challenging." I think her hope will be fulfilled.

The book is excellent, but demanding. I would recommend it for practicing poets, MFA students and teachers, and true lovers of poetry: if you already "get" poetry, then Kinzie's book will help you get a lot more. Kinzie's treatment is especially successful at communicating the fluidity and interconnectedness of specific elements of a poem.

On the other hand, if in the past you have found poetry inaccessible or intimidating, then this book is not the place to start. Something like Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry would serve better.

To learn to enjoy and appreciate poetry is to give yourself a wonderful gift for the rest of your life. Go for it! Get some books! (The first one and the last one are the most important.)

Get a first-rate anthology, with lots of different poets and genres:

Harold Bloom, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost (a superb single-volume anthology; an incredible value at $13 - $20)

Get some guides to the art:

Laurence Perrine, Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry (a solid intro guide)
Robert Pinsky,
...Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By reader on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
A great poet and a great text.

Things that stand out for me: The first sentence of the book: "I believe poets read poetry differently than non-poets do." The book continues to seem like a brilliant reaction to a lack of good textbooks. And Kinzie addresses this: "First, the book should present the sounds and rhythms of poetry alongside consideration of the ideas and thought-units within the poems. It sounds simple enough, yet few introductions to formal poetry now treat sense and sound as parallels that continuously cooperate even when one seems dominant. And few of my recent predecessors give essential space to the chief mechanism of thought: the sentence, along with the other elements of grammatical construction." Kinzie repeatedly uses different takes on the same phrase: "...will help you teach yourself" In the section, Writing the Poem you Read: A View of the Artistic Process she says, "To become better acquainted with poetry you must read poems as if you were writing them. The reader follows...the many paths that were not taken by the author."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Book Bear on August 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read several books on writing poetry to help me get the creative juices flowing. Most of the books i've read have primarily focused on allowing the words, whatever they are, to flow from your mind and onto the paper, and most chapters in those books end with a flamboyant exercise that promices to do just that. This book Has exercises in it; but this is the first book which I have read that has broken the study of a poem into a science. This in essense is a textbook and upon reading it you will learn how to properly analyze a poem, create a straight vision with your poem, and how to maintain style and prose. At least that is how it has helped me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Harwell Sayler on June 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
Poets who have not yet studied poetry forms, techniques, and terminology might get lost in this book! For example, if a poet doesn't know what enjambment means, the discussion of "Lines in Tension" may be overwhelming. Nevertheless, poets who are serious about writing memorable poems with high literary quality will do well to persevere.

One possibility is to start reading this book at the back to learn "Poetic Terms" with definitions and examples. Another is to read this book over and over until it makes sense and becomes part of your own writing.

Why bother? Like many of you, I didn't have the option of taking poetry courses on a university level, so I began gathering and studying poetry how-to's, poetry dictionaries, poetry encyclopedias, anthologies, and books of poems by poets whose work I know I like. Eventually, I even wrote a poetry home study course, which I used for years with other poets and poetry students before revising it as a Kindle e-book. I've placed hundreds of my own poems, too, and have two traditionally published books of poems, but every time I read what Mary Kinzie has to say about poetry, I learn something new - something that takes my writing to another level, which means it must be time for me to read this highly recommended book again!
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