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The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets: A Self-Help Memoir [Paperback]

Jeffrey Skinner

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Book Description

March 20 2012 The Writer's Studio

A private eye turned moderately successful poet leads readers on a satiric, hopeful tour of how to make a life in the arts, while still having a life. Revealing, hilarious, and peppered with sly takes on the ins and outs of contemporary American poetry (chapters include "The Silence of the Iambs," "The Revisionarium, Ask Dr. Frankenpoem," and "The Periodic Table of Poetic Elements"), Jeffrey Skinner offers advice, candor, and wit.

Revision is the process a poem endures to become its best self.
Or, if you are the poet, you are the process a poem endures to become its best self.


Endures because a first draft, like all other objects in the universe, has inertia and would prefer to stay where it is. The poet must not collaborate.
Best
self because the poem is more like a person than a thing, and does not strenuously object to personification.
Yo, poem.
But let's not get carried away. It's your poem and you can treat it as you wish; sweet talk it; push it around if that's what it takes. Alfred Hitchcock notoriously said of the actors in his movies, "They are cattle."

Jeffrey Skinner is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Salt Water Amnesia (Ausable Press, 2005). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, BOMB, and The Paris Review, and his work has earned awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Howard Foundation.



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books (March 20 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936747278
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936747276
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.7 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #781,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Skinner’s book takes advantage of its unusual format to convey fun, unexpected content. 'Love of poems by others x Resistance to influence = Style' sounds like something Susan Sontag might have written in her journals… After writing five full-length collections of his own poems, editing countless collections by others through his work as a founding publisher of the influential small press Sarabande Books… Skinner leaves no doubt that his love of the art is no infatuation. In addition to being a self-help, how-to and confession, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets is also—and perhaps most of all—a moving portrait of a marriage."—New York Times

"Jeffrey Skinner, author of five books of poems, has penned a hilarious yet moving 'self-help memoir.' Skinner, more than a 'moderately successful' poet, has been published in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other prestigious journals. In this facetious yet spot-on directive, he points out the pitfalls of pursuing accolades in lieu of art."
—Kelly Fordon, Boston Review

"From the title of the book and chapters, from his half-goofy top ten lists and his letters to Dr. Frankenpoet section, I knew he was out to have some fun, but when Skinner writes about what poets must do and be prepared for, he sometimes exceeds the predictable answers."
Shenandoah

"When he speaks about the craft of poetry, we are wise to listen."
—Frederick Smock, The Courier-Journal

About the Author

Jeffrey Skinner is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Salt Water Amnesia (Ausable Press, 2005), and two anthologies of poems, Last Call: Poems on Alcoholism, Addiction, and Deliverance; and Passing the Word: Poets and Their Mentors. Poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, BOMB, and The Paris Review, and his poems, plays and stories have gathered grants, fellowships, and awards from such sources as the National Endowment for the Arts, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Howard Foundation, and the state arts agencies of Connecticut, Delaware, and Kentucky.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Artists of All Kinds July 16 2012
By T. Persun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a great book. Skinner writes about being a poet, but his stories and suggestions fit with any type of writer or artist. Rather than taking itself too seriously, the book was written with a sense of humor. Yet, like all humor, there is a lot of truth in the book as well. Some of the lists alone are worth the price of the book. Some of the best chapters encourage the reader to find a poetry (or painter, or musician) companion, to discipline yourself, and to make use of everything. I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and read this book. I highly recommend it. I've even quoted from the book in a blog post or two.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Poetry Class Ever Oct. 3 2012
By Susan Bower Carter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Part memoir - part instruction - alllll right. I have learned more about poetry---more about thinking about poetry, more about enjoying poetry than I have from any other class ever. Jeffrey Skinner died earlier this year. I wish I could have written him to say what a good writer he is, period, whether poetry or prose. His description of working for his father is fabulous. Read the chapter called "The Background Check." You feel how he felt. He taught me how to read a poem. He introduced me to poets I had heard of, but never met: Rilke, Elizabeth Bishop, and more. He's giving me the courage to write poetry.[[ASIN:B00761XNHS The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets: A Self-Help Memoir (The Writer's Studio)] is a wonderful book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A nice journey and kick in the pants as well Sept. 22 2012
By Craig K - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You may not need to know Mr. Skinner to become a moderately successful poet, but you'll be glad you made his acquaintance through this fine, funny book. Especially if you are a writer, a reader or just someone looking to learn something. Highly recommended for all writers who need a reminder of how hard the job is, but also why giving up is never the right option. (You might not want to quote the part about necessary selfishness to your spouse or partner, though).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distilled Truths Aug. 28 2012
By Ohioan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good book, an inspiration to all aspiring poets and even to writers in general. In easy-to-read, humorous accounts of his life as a child, a student, and a professor of poetry, Skinner summarizes the "6.5" practices of, as he calls them, "moderately successful poets." That is: not geniuses, not off-the-scale talent, but ordinary people who, if they have a poetry flame inside, can nurture it and live by it. The 6.5 practices range from the first (and possibly the most important), which can be summarized as Protect Your Talent, to the last, Take the Long View.

Each of the practices Skinner lists is of great importance to a writer, and each is presented in such a casual, just-talking kind of manner that the truth of what the author says shines through. His anecdotes, particularly the ones from his days as a security guard, are interesting and intriguing, even. But they're also a bit frustrating to read because in a few cases it seems as if more, not less, is called for. In the chapter on Makes Use, for example, we're given the story of Bobby the Ape (a man, not an ape), and although the story seems unrelated to anything that came before in the book or anything that comes after, it's clear that the story must be there as an example of a poet "making use" of everything that has happened to him or her, everything he or she has experienced. While as a reader I can intellectually understand that Jeffrey Skinner must have made use of the experience of knowing Bobby the Ape, I as a reader also yearn to see an example of HOW he made use of this material. Was it in an entire poem? A stanza? A line? A word choice, even? Surely the writer knows how he made use of it, else how could he put it in the book as an example of making use? In general, I think this book would be even better it it contained some poetry in addition to the one poem by Thomas Hardy that it does contain, and if that poetry illustrated the point the author was making.

My other complaint about the book is that a little bit of the author's humorous sidebars (letters to the editor, Pre-MFA Quiz) goes a long way. These sidebars are so long that they cease being funny and seem to exist only to give the book more pages.

But my objections are minor in comparison to the worth of the book. If you are a poet and need inspiration to continue writing poetry, read this book. If you're a writer with whom the world is too much late and soon, and need to know that others have trod the writing path and can point out the serpentine trails, the box canyons, the quiet brooks, and the resting places, read this book -- you will welcome it as a thirsty traveler welcomes water.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun July 30 2012
By Ktina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is great fun for poets, would-be poets, and general readers who love poetry. Engaging witty style! Plenty of knowledge of the subject. Buy it!

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