- 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: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
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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."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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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Top Customer Reviews
This is perhaps THE single best guide for newer poets hoping to improve their craft. It has changed how I read and write poetry.
Kooser's mentor-like tone and approach are perfect for a book of this nature. I'm very happy with my purchase and reading of thus incredible little book.
Kooser's advice is both encouraging and challenging--and it is both because he demystifies poetry and makes it sacred at the same time. Look harder. Write clearer. Read more. Write more.
He advises you to strip away the smoke and mirrors and pretend (believe) you are actually trying to communicate to other human beings. The risk is that you may discover you have nothing to say. But the value is that you will sharpen your powers of observation and make your poems real. And then, with practice and the internalizing of good poetry written by others, you will find your own voice and your own way of holding up something to the world and saying "Look at it this way! Isn't that amazing?"
This book is filled with good advice, and at different moments, you may need different pieces of it. This is one to own, mark up, make your own. And then turn to it whenever you need a nudge, or encouragement, or reproof. You will find it all in these few pages.
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.
I also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about how to read and analyze poetry. His deconstruction of poetic techniques will help you read poetry better.
Poetry isn't only for romantics, it's for those who love the living, breathing language and want to use the fewest, best words to get a though across to the reader.