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Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader First Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0980167252
ISBN-10: 0980167256
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Great advice, good humor, excellent examples . . . and not textbooky. Playful and accessible, the continuing point that you don t have to get poems to get them will ease a lot of minds. This is an important work on a mysterious subject the reading of poetry. I learned a lot. Painlessly. --Rebecca Rule, author of Could Have Been Worse

About the Author

Alice B. Fogel has taught reading, writing, and other arts programs for all ages in a variety of venues, from colleges to clubs, primary schools to summer institutes. A co-founder of the New Hampshire Young Writers Conference, she has presented programs through arts and humanities councils, at the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, and elsewhere. Alice s most recent book of poems, Be That Empty, was a national poetry bestseller in 2008, and her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including the Best American Poetry series. She is available to lead reading group discussions, professional development workshops, or any other programs for exploring the world of poetry.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hobblebush Books; First edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980167256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980167252
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,483,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
STRANGE TERRAIN; A POETRY HANDBOOK FOR THE RELUCTANT READER serves many purposes and is not only a well conceived and written book (author Alice B. Fogel is not only an accomplished poet herself but she also is a multifaceted teacher), but it is also a book that serves two communities - those who avoid 'poetry' because of a fear of not understanding 'it' AND poets who write everyday and wonder why so few people know about them! In a fine mixture of light comedy and intuitive reasoning Fogel opens the doors for approaching a poem with instructions on in the form of eight steps: Shape (the appearance of poetry on the printed page and why the variations), Words, Sound, Images ('poets can make you see things that aren't there', Emotion, Thoughts, Fiction's Devices, and Unknowing.

It takes a brave poet to 'explain' her work n a manner that invites readers to come to the poem and gain insight, but that is exactly what Fogel does in this book. In each of the 8 Steps she uses her own poems to demonstrate the step addressed. Her method: talk to the reader, remove the barriers, then present her poem and follow that with reassurance. By the end of this book the reader will feel less threatened by the art of writing in poetic form, will have grown to 'understand' and love the eloquent poems by Alice B Fogel, and yet will be encouraged to not attempt to 'demystify' poetry. And that simple and accessible lesson is a wise one.

Where Fogel's book is useful to active poets who love their daily approach to viewing and expressing their views in poetic form lies in her honesty about defining the barriers 'non-poetry readers' face.
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Format: Paperback
Although many guidebooks offer assistance to readers in approaching poetry, Alice Fogel's book, "Strange Terrain: A Poetry Handbook for the Reluctant Reader" is unusual in that Fogel relies almost entirely on her own poems to illustrate her themes. This is both the strength and the weakness of her book. Fogel is both a poet and a teacher who has taught poetry and creative writing at the college level. She also gives seminars of varying lengths to teachers and other groups, using her book as a source, with the aim of allowing better teaching and understanding of poetry. A resident of New England, Fogel's book is published by a small New England press, Hobblebush Books, which kindly offered me the opportunity to review it.

Fogel writes simply and colloquially as she invites readers into what many view as the "strange terrain" of poetry. She tries to overcome the reluctance that even good readers face in approaching poetry by emphasizing that they will find in the medium much of what they already know. As befitting the use of the book in seminars, she breaks down her approach into steps. At first she states her aim as a three-fold process: demystification -- taking the fear out of approaching poetry -- information -- providing simple cues to reading -- and then remystication -- recapturing the strangeness of poetry without the fear of reading. Most of the book is given over to the eight steps of reading poetry, as Fogel breaks down poetry into some of its component parts, including shape (form), words, sounds, images, emotion, thoughts, and fiction's devices. The last step, "unknowing", is the most critical is Fogel reintrduces the necessary mystery to the reading of poetry without the fear.
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully presented and edited book that works as a showcase for Alice Fogel's poetry and as a guide for the teaching and appreciation of poetry.

Fogel's poetry is precise and deeply felt on matters both near and far. She sings of meadowlands in "Unlocking," of snow and the presence of someone dear in "Snowstorm," and of the weight of life in "No Less." Her sense of careful diction and precise punctuation give evidence of a deep commitment to craft. Fogel is a traditional poet for the most part, a poet committed to examining and reflecting to us the studied essence of the natural world and what it means to be alive. In subject matter she owes something to Robert Frost but with a different sense of rhythm and she doesn't like to rhyme.

Her didactic purpose finds its culmination in the last chapter, "Step Eight: Unknowing" which is subtitled "Poems Can Mystify You." She writes "Unlike in political or commercial talk, with which we are inundated, poetry is a language of concision and precision that imparts not less than it literally means but more than it verbally says." (p. 157)

She adds on the next page, "...unlike in math, poetry adds up to a total greater than the sum of its parts."

Poetry then is holistic and unlike machinery cannot be reductively analyzed. I like to say (and do say in my book of poems, "Like a Tsunami Headed for Hilo"):

"...it is in poetry that we find the true power of the language. It is in poetry that words are made to soar above their moorings so that something beyond a linear expression is achieved.
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