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The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

91 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0803227699
ISBN-10: 0803227698
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Now the 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, the Iowa-born, Nebraska-based Kooser has 40 years' experience in constructing verse. Like Wallace Stevens, Kooser was for many years an insurance executive, and begins chapter one with the following admonition: "You'll never be able to make a living writing poems." The soundness of that advice sets the tone for this no-nonsense book, which "advocates for poems that can be read and understood without professional interpretation." To that end, he offers plenty of examples from contemporary poets like Jane Hirschfield and B.H. Fairchild (as well as from his own work), explaining uses of rhyme, meter, imagery and other fundamentals without resorting to overly technical language. He stresses the use of judicious detail (which has its source in close observation), and shows, with subtlety, how and when one might shift from metaphor to simile, or vice versa. The last of 12 chapters stresses time as the greatest help in editing: "leave your poem alone until it looks as if someone else might have written it." Perhaps the most important feature of the book is Kooser's voice, which comes through clearly and evenly, with little patience for cant, but a clear desire to advise those starting down a largely thankless path. "The truth is," he writes, "nobody's waiting for you to press your poetry into their hands."
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From Booklist

The work of Kooser, America's new poet laureate, will be receiving more attention now, attention that is amply deserved. As this collection of essays shows, he is a generous presence in the poetic world, one who feels that poets' "job description" (which he discusses in the book's first essay) is not to make money or even fame, but to "serve the poems we write." While encouraging poets to think of their audience as they write, and to revise toward intelligibility, he does not prescribe who that audience will be. His own work tends toward the rural and populist, but he does not disdain those whose audience will be urban and urbane. Rather, he urges poets to focus on the work of poetry rather than on the idea of being a poet. His advice, useful to poets at any level of achievement, includes both broad and specific ideas on revising, and enlightening discussion of matters ranging from the often-underestimated power of simile to employing narrative effectively. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 166 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803227698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803227699
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems DELIGHTS AND SHADOWS. He is the author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry and several books of nonfiction, and his work has appeared in many periodicals. This is his first children's book. He lives in Garland, Nebraska.Barry Root has illustrated many books for children, including THE CAT WHO LIKED POTATO SOUP by Terry Farish and THE BIRTHDAY TREE by Paul Fleischman. He lives in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

163 of 167 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on February 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ted Kooser, our most current Poet Laureate, writes some of the most accesible poetry around today. Reflective of his Midwestern origins, his poetry is lyrical and simple, beautiful and stunning. Just pick up any of one of his many books, and delve into his works to appreciate why he has earned this national honor. Kooser, teacher that he is, has responded in kind, and written for us a wonderful manual on the art of writing poetry, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual".

The subtitle of this work is "Practical Advice for Beginning Poets", but I daresay this book can be a guide for anyone interested in the art of poetry. I myself have dabbled in poetry since high school years, and I found this guide insightful. It allowed me to reflect upon my own work, illuminating what I've been doing well and supporting change in other areas. It also ignited a renewed interest in writing poetry, which had fallen off since a recent foray into screenwriting.

Kooser writes this non-fiction book like a poet would. There are some absolutely beautiful images that Koosher paints to elaborate his points. He describes the first few lines of a poem as an invitation to a houseguest, which we welcome into the poem for a short stay. These, and others, are indelible images that you can retain as you write.

Also, fortunately, Koosher shies away from long, arduous explanations on the mechanics of writing poetry. One of the ways to turn people off quicker to this writing is to demand an understanding of meter and rhyme. Koosher's discussion is quick and painless, kuch like tearing off a band-aid. He suggests focusing on emotions and memories, yet talks about the mechanics as a way to bring it to your awareness.

Kooser has given us a gift in this book.
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Elle on April 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book on writing poetry I have ever read. Kooser takes you by the hand and walks you through the poems, pointing out what makes each unique along the way. The book, itself, is beautifully written. Kooser makes you want to read and write poetry again.

Every newspaper in the country should publish his column on poetry! Let's start something..... Can you imagine what just might happen if we all woke up and read a poem in the morning and thought about that all day, talked about it at the office?
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Martin H. Dickinson on November 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Having just won the Pulitzer Prize and being named to a second term as Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser ought to know what he's talking about--and he really does. This book is filled with practical advice and a wealth of ideas and techniques for his fellow poets. He is really strong on simile and metaphor and how to use them correctly. He is also very insightful on how to work with detail. Most books about poetry have lots of exercises and dwell on the topics you might write about--how to get your ideas together. Kooser breaks the pattern of the typical poetry manual: no exercises, but tons of practical advice. You can hear him talking over your shoulder. One of the greatest things Kooser does is remind us that the poem is directed to a reader--gets us thinking about our audience, who they are and what they want. A poem is communication--a poem is intended to be read by someone.

I find one of the most interesting things to be Ted Kooser's reflections on poetry itself which light up every page with their wisdom and wit. We learn, for example that most of our poetry nowadays is anectodal--a kind of "cracker barrel" set of anecdotes about our own lives--and he doesn't really criticize this so much as point it out and suggest it wasn't always this way, and it doesn't need to be this way. Writing a poem is about choices and you have the option of stepping back from the window of the poem and not having yourself in it quite so much. He suggests going out on "poetry patrol," in the supermarket, the yard sales, the cafes to do people watching. This is exactly what Whitman did. You can tell Walt Whitman went out and watched the carpenter sawing through the plank, smelled the sawdust, watched the sailor making the boat fast to the dock etc.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must confess two things: I'm already a Kooser fan and I only found him because he's the current poet laureate of the United States.

But since I came upon him he's become my favorite, not only for his superb writing, but for the person who shines through in every sentence in his poems and in this book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual. What this book isn't, is a list of all the do's and don'ts, of forms and rules. It's not a list at all, but an invitation to have a fireside chat about poetry, get cozy and talk about our favorite subject. And because Ted is a gifted teacher he can't help but share the kinds of observations that let us come away with tremendous insight and learning. What this means is that, as a result of reading The Poetry Home Repair Manual, you will become a better poet (if what you do is write poetry), and someone whose insight into poetry has increased so much that poetry becomes revealed like never before (if you are a reader of poetry). Now here's the bonus: Because Ted Kooser is generous instead of elitist, kind instead of exacting, and possesses a gentle heart and a wise mind you will have access like never before to use your own discernments with regard to poetry. Only last night I was able to put aside a poet with whom I never connected, without guilt. Five stars are not enough! Ted sets you free.
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