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What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life Hardcover – August 20, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Soto has written more than 35 books for young readers and 11 poetry collections for adults and won many awards, and he now reflects on the nature of the writing life. His charming, thought-provoking vignettes about everything from receiving his MFA by mail to domestic downsizing are best read one or a few at at time. This enables readers to better savor his sometimes rueful wit and appreciation of time passing, as in his attempt to perfectly align adjacent window blinds. He observes, “Rivers make poets dream . . . and long for adventure.” “Reading poetry is an act of attention . . . you conjure a scene and do your best to understand its meaning—or at least gauge its level of feeling . . . less suggests laziness.” As one reads and mulls over these brief glimpses into Soto’s literary mind, his words expand their meaning, application, and worth like flowers from seeds. Soto describes “lakes of memory filling my eyes,” and recalls “the geese darkening the sky of an autumn afternoon . . . winging south, their eyes filled with the memory of lakes.” So, too, do the essays gathered here fill and nourish us. --Whitney Scott

Review

"If you believe that the most important thing any piece of writing can do is to drop the reader into the center of an author's thoughts, then Gary Soto's What Poets Are Like is the book for you. It is funny, heartfelt, instructive and erudite while remaining, in a storyteller's way, wryly entertaining. Check it out, you won't be disappointed."
Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"The writer at work and in life takes a serpentine path. Gary Soto's story is sweet, bittersweet, and at times quite funny."
Shawn Wong, author of American Knees

"[Soto's] charming, though-provoking vignettes about everything from receiving his MFA by mail to domestic downsizing are best read one or a few at a time. This enables the readers to better savor his sometimes rueful wit and appreciation of time passing, as in his attempt to perfectly align adjacent window blinds... As one reads and mulls over these brief glimpses into Soto's literary mind, his words expand their meaning, application, and worth like flowers from seeds. Soto describes 'lakes of memory filling my eyes,' and recalls 'the geese darkening the sky of an autumn afternoon...winging south, their eyes filled with the memory of lakes.' So, too, do the essays gathered here fill and nourish us."
Booklist

"Gary Soto’s collection of short, autobiographical essays are highly particular and personal, specific to Soto himself. And Soto’s wry, occasionally self-deprecating sense of humor means that, far from extolling the virtues of leading a writer’s life, many of the pieces contained in this collection point out its travails, its small indignities for anyone less of a “big shot” than Stephen King or John Grisham. This would be depressing to read if it weren’t for Soto’s comic timing and charming prose, which is carefully crafted to allow as much of his personal idiom and character as possible onto the page. ...the biggest link among the essays is Soto’s voice itself, which is lively and funny and present, especially when Soto is making self-deprecating references to the youth of today." 
Zyzzyva

"These pieces offer glimpses of his life that are both pleasing (the memory of first meeting his wife, of meeting a loyal fan who named her dog after him) and poignant (the pang of facing empty chairs at a book reading). The essays move back and forth in time, addressing bittersweet topics that include aging, the problematic nature of success and the demise of the publishing world as Soto once knew it."
Kirkus Reviews 

"With effortlessly honest introspections, acclaimed poet Gary Soto describes the wide-ranging experiences of the writing life in all its extremes. Soto bares his memories—the awards and the rejections, the recognition and the indifference—with grace, like a well-seasoned writer should... And he is satirically funny, even if the fun being had is at his own expense."
World Literature Today

"In 60 witty prose pieces, the Berkeley poet muses on book signings, party talk and the chimp cage at the Oakland Zoo."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Chicano poet and an author of children's and young adult fiction, Gary Soto examines the writer’s life in this lovely memoir, making observations on everything from the low place of poets on the proverbial totem pole to the surplus of time he spends with felines."
Los Angeles Magazine

"Fresno author Gary Soto has written about a host of topics related to community, family and place, through the prism of his Mexican-American heritage. His latest book examines those themes on a personal level."
The Fresno Bee

"...a funny and engaging 'writer's confession,' very short stories about the realities of life as a poet that sometimes turn into poems."
Tampa Bay Times

"Feisty and funny, 'What Poets Are Like' offers generous insights into the literary life."
The Bellingham Herald

"Soto, the child of working-class Mexican-Americans, has not had an undistinguished poetic career. He has won awards and fellowships, been nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. (He's also the author of several successful books for children and young adults.) But 'What Poets Are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life,' a loose collection of mostly autobiographical vignettes and anecdotes, is full of genial self-mockery... Soto's an amiable rambler, a born yarn-spinner."
The Chicago Tribune

"The pleasure Soto takes in the written word, a dose of comic relief plus his appreciation of the decisive moment in life make this an engaging and readable writer's confession."
Ars Poetica Library

"What Poets are Like: Up and Down With the Writing Life, by Gary Soto, is a beguiling, funny, self-mocking account of life as a not Name Brand poet."
Slow Muse

"Here is a multitude of everyday concerns – easy to relate to and enjoy whether you’re interested in poetry or not. But for fellow writers, Soto’s words will mean even more."
Empty Mirror
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570618747
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570618741
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,302,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Denise R. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life collects sixty short essays by Gary Soto. Soto is an acclaimed American poet, as well as the author of many books for young readers.

This isn't an instruction book for writing poetry, or a memoir. You won't even really learn "what poets are like" - but rather, what this poet is like, what makes him and his poetic engine tick.

Soto's casual style gives the impression of a conversation with a friend; these could be stories told over a cup of coffee.

Among the topics: the pain of being cut loose by a longtime publisher; a lost hat and its discovered fate; on downsizing a book collection; poetry's lack of reward; on the possibility of living to 120 - and writing poetry; a chance encounter with a former student; fellow poets; a photo of Cesar Chavez; the day the MFA arrived in the mail; The Gary Soto Literary Museum; football games. Here is a multitude of everyday concerns - easy to relate to and enjoy whether you're interested in poetry or not. But for fellow writers, Soto's words will mean even more.

Disclosure: I received an advance copy from the publisher, in order to provide honest feedback, whether positive or negative.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a delight this book is. The fun starts with the look of it, a smaller than average 4 1/2 by 7 1/4 hardback with a picture of a penguin on the front. It feels good in the hand. That good feeling extends to the inside. I’m not sure if non-writers will identify with Soto the way I do, but this collection of moments from Soto’s life as a writer delight me in their truth. This is what it’s really like. You schedule a reading and nobody comes. Your fans adore you, but most of the world has no idea who you are, and your work is still getting rejected. These pieces are prose, but they read like poetry, especially the title essay, “What Poets are Like,” which begins, “They are fun, then not fun. They are tall within themselves, but very short when applying for food stamps...They are made of air and words...” Then there’s the one where Soto dresses in a suit to attend a 49ers game and sits there talking about Hemingway while the fans around him throw peanuts at him. Love this book.
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Yes, there is such a thing as poet humor and it rocks. Poets aren't always sitting around in garrets depressed or sticking their heads in ovens. Some of them like to wear cashmere and go the baseball game. Some of them can tell jokes.

This is a marvelous collection of short pieces easy to digest before falling asleep and leaving a smile of wisdom on your face.
Even if you hate poetry you will like Gary Soto. He's a good drinking companion.
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Format: Hardcover
If you enjoy Gary Soto's poetry and short stories, you will hear his voice come through in this collection of short essays. His book covers his life as a writer and provides a look at what informs his writing. Writing adult poetry has been his passion, but he has probably found more success writing books for children. Soto discusses his frustrations (including consumers using his work without permission; rejection) and high points (including how he met his wife.) This collection is an easy, enjoyable read, and any fan of Soto will learn something new about this great author.
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