"We wanted to create a book," say poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux in their introduction to The Poet's Companion
, "that would focus on both craft and process." The book they have created is an impassioned exploration of poetry writing that addresses subject matter, craft, and the writing life. The reigning wisdom is that poets, like other creative writers, should write what they know. "The trick," say the authors, "is to find out what we know, challenge what we know, own what we know, and then give it away in language." Elsewhere they add that, while "as poets, we need to write from our experience ... that experience may be mental, emotional, and imaginative as well as physical."
Addonizio and Laux are lively spokespersons for the poet's life; they pepper their thoughts with well-chosen poems from their contemporaries--including David Bottoms, Jack Gilbert, Linda Gregg, and Jane Kenyon--and they conclude each short chapter with an invigorating collection of ideas for writing. These "ideas" culminate in a terrific section of writing exercises at book's end: write a poem describing "your most acutely embarrassing moment"; "write a poem of praise for an unlikely group of people, things, ideas"; "write a poem about the last time you saw a loved one you lost." I found myself a bit frustrated by the brevity of the discussions (most chapters are under 10 pages) and a bit put off by the first person plural narrative (do Addonizio and Laux really agree on everything they say they agree on?), but these are mere quibbles. This is a fine book indeed. --Jane Steinberg
From Library Journal
Poets Addonizio and Laux warn against cliche, and although textbooks on writing come a dime a dozen these days, theirs is head and shoulders above the rest. There are three main sections: "Subjects for Writing" (e.g. death, the erotic), "The Poet's Craft" (metaphor, rhyme), and "The Writing Life" (self-doubt, writer's block); four separate appendixes list other writing texts, anthologies, marketing tips, and electronic resources. The many exercises offered emerge largely from the intensive one-day workshops conducted by Addonizio and Laux. Both knowledgeable and practical in their approach, the authors offer everything a poet needs, including one feature more necessary than ever in the postliterate age yet absent from other writing texts: a gentle yet insistent lesson on grammar. Highly recommended for all libraries.?David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
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