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The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop Paperback – May 12, 2016
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. . . this is a poetry exercise/craft tip book poets (and English instructors) only dream about, a collection divided into sections such as "Sound," "Voice," and "Syntax," each addressing the stated topic with relevant writing/revision suggestions, plus a poem provided as a springboard for writing a poem in a similar mode or form. There are even examples of poems written from the prompt. . . I look forward to the next time I teach introduction to poetry writing because I definitely think students will appreciate the specificity of Lockward's prompts.
--Martha Silano, Blue Positive
What I like about this book is that it offers you poems, prompts and even interviews. . . The book is definitely a portable workshop that you can use by yourself or with a group.
--Kelli Russell Agodon, Book of Kells
Written with a knowledgeable audience in mind, it's the kind of book that can both help a poet grow and grow with her, a valuable addition to any poet's shelves.
--Ruth Foley, Five Things
. . . this is an important new resource for poets--those who are just beginning as well as the more seasoned poet.
--Susan Rich, The Alchemist's Kitchen
The Crafty Poet should be on every poet's bookshelf. It brings us down to earth by pointing out that there is as much craft as inspiration in creating poetry.
--Rose Mary Boehm, The Lazy Blogger
Here is a must for teachers of poetry. . . a feast of poems and instructions.
--Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books
Reading through this book, I find myself torn by competing desires: to linger over many of the poems, and to rush to my desk to try the prompts. A book that inspires me to do more than is possible--what a good book that is. I'm glad The Crafty Poet found its way to my hands, and I'm looking forward to leafing through my notebook in a year or so, counting up the poems that owe their conception to this book.
From the Inside Flap
Model poems with prompts, writing tips, and interviews contributed by 56 of our nation's finest poets, including 13 former and current state Poets Laureate:
Kim Addonizio, JoAnn Balingit, Ellen Bass, Jan Beatty, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Robert Bense, Pam Bernard, Michelle Bitting, Deborah Bogen, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Edward Byrne, Kelly Cherry, Philip F. Deaver, Bruce Dethlefsen, Caitlin Doyle, Patricia Fargnoli, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Amy Gerstler, Karin Gottshall, Jennifer Gresham, Bruce Guernsey, Marilyn Hacker, Jeffrey Harrison, Lola Haskins, Jane Hirshfield, Gray Jacobik, Rod Jellema, Richard Jones, Julie Kane, Adele Kenny, Dorianne Laux, Sydney Lea, Hailey Leithauser, Jeffrey Levine, Diane Lockward, Denise Low, Jennifer Maier, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Jeffrey McDaniel, Wesley McNair, Susan Laughter Meyers, Bronwen Butter Newcott, Alicia Ostriker, Linda Pastan, Stanley Plumly, Vern Rutsala, Martha Silano, Marilyn L. Taylor, Matthew Thorburn, Lee Upton, Nance Van Winckel, Ingrid Wendt, Nancy White, Cecilia Woloch, Baron Wormser, Suzanne Zweizig
An additional 45 accomplished poets contributed sample poems inspired by the prompts in this book:
Joel Allegretti, Linda Benninghoff, Broeck Blumberg, Rose Mary Boehm, Bob Bradshaw, Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Rachel Dacus, Ann DeVenezia, Liz Dolan, Kristina England, Laura Freedgood, Gail Fishman Gerwin, Erica Goss, Jeanie Greensfelder, Constance Hanstedt, John Hutchinson, Penny Harter, Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, Tina Kelley, Claire Keyes, Laurie Kolp, Janet McCann, Antoinette Libro, Charlotte Mandel, Joan Mazza, Janet McCann, Nancy Bailey Miller, Thomas Moudry, Drew Myron, Shawnte Orion, Donna Pflueger, Wanda Praisner, Susanna Rich, Ken Ronkowitz, Basil Rouskas, Nancy Scott, Martha Silano, Linda Simone, Melissa Studdard, Lisken Van Pelt Dus, Jeanne Wagner, Ingrid Wendt, Scott Wiggerman, Bill Wunder, Michael T. Young, Sander Zulauf
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As I made my way through the pages of original tips and probing interviews, prompts, and sample poems, I kept asking myself what made this book stand out so well from the many others on writing poetry. Where most books offer long lists of prompts of a sentence or two, Lockward and the other poets who contribute to this volume make specific suggestions that coach you into writing your best work. She might say: here is a poem, notice the sounds or this repeating phase, see how this theme weaves through the stanzas, note the surprising images. Now do this and this. Go back and see if you can add this element. And then try this. This is followed by two sample poems and I'm happy to say one of my sonnets appears as one of them.
Most of the tips and prompts run one to three pages, enough to engage you to begin a poem, and not so much that you are overwhelmed or discouraged or for it to feel formulaic. Many of the suggestions can be used repeatedly, such as the word chain, and tips and strategies for fresher diction.
My writing in the margins told me I couldn't stop to get my notebook, and wanted to snag what was flying through my head before it flew out again.
THE CRAFTY POET belongs in the canon of texts on writing poetry next to THE POET'S COMPANION (Laux & Addonizio) and IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND (Kowit). Unlike those gems, this is not a beginner's book for those who need terms and techniques explained, but rather is for intermediate and advanced poets who are ready to take their work to the next level.
I'm already looking forward to Vol. II. In the meanwhile, I have drafts to revise and send out before working my way through this book again.
As Pam Bernard says at the end of her craft tip on words with muscle on page 33, "Will you give your reader a piece of white paper with words on it, or the small, warm animal of your hand?"
Reading good poems usually inspires me to start writing without needing added prompts. Above all else, this craft book is good reading. I was flying through it and only stopped to write when my Muse knocked the book from my hands. I was trying to shake off a holiday, winter, election writer’s block. I first tried the Poem and Prompt for “American Supermarket Idyll” by Suzanne Zweizig, and drafted my favorite poem in months. All it took was opening the door, then other poems poured forth, not always connected in any obvious way to the book.
Tips offered on revision were even more inspired than prompts, since they’ll help writing every day. I was also gratified when I could nod my head in agreement with experts. For example, I love short lines and white space on the page, perhaps because I’m married to a graphic designer or because I have poor vision. This quote from Lockward’s interview with Edward Byrne hit home for me
“I like to think of the stanza breaks as the leaven, substances that
lift or transform what otherwise could be a heavy or doughy passage burdening the poetry.”
I agree, in fact, that was one reason I was annoyed by a Proust novel. I couldn’t find a break to set the book down!
For me, Lockward created a charmed formula by combining tips from well-known poets, interviews with poets on why they did what they did in a specific poem, and enough good poems to be a poetry anthology without the tips. I felt like I was buoyed up, not drowned by fussy rules. I’m ordering part II right now!
The Crafty Poet places all of these tips and articles in one well-organized place. I have read it through several times, and have returned to specific prompts to stimulate my own writing.
There are sample poems that follow the original prompt, interviews with poets about their poem, and good information on specific aspects of craft. This is not a book for beginning poets, but rather an advanced portable workshop. I see this book as filling a rather large gap in poetry writing books-the poet who is actively writing and publishing-with invaluable exercises and articles. In her intro, Lockward states that this book "assumes a fairly knowledgeable reader."
The book is divided into 10 topical sections, such as Sound, Voice, Syntax, Revision. It would make an excellent gift for a poetry writer, and would be extremely useful in a poetry writing group. My critique group holds a writing retreat once or twice a year, and I've already flagged several prompts I want to suggest.