on March 6, 2016
A few months ago, I decided to read some books about writing poetry with the hope of improving mine. I had been writing on and off for years and had taken a pretty extensive workshop some years before but wanted to see what other help was out there. With that in mind, I came across the excellent AllPoetry website and a whole pile of books that promised to teach me how to be a better poet. Among the books were The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Creating Poetry, A Poetry Handbook, In the Palm of your Hand and poemcrazy.
If you are reading this review then chances are that you want to become a better poet and could benefit from a comparison of the books listed above. Here is mine.
A Poetry Handbook – I am glad I have this book in my life. It gives me Mary Oliver whose character seems to inspire on its own. I don't think I will be re-reading it any time soon but, looking back at some of the choices that I've made since I've read it, I can say that it has already changed my life in very concrete ways. The greatest lesson here is that poetry is a relationship and requires deep commitment. This book is a must.
Creating Poetry – if this was the only resource for poetry-writing technique, it would be sufficient. However, it is downright boring compared to all the other books listed here. Maybe its great, but I didn't feel like reading most of it when I had so many more engaging books to choose from.
In the palm of your hand – this is the book that I would recommend to the beginner. It goes over a lot of important technical territory in an engaging and entertaining way. There is a section on 'bad poetry' and another on 'revision' – all aspiring poets should read these. Also, the poems given as examples inspire.
The Poetry Home Repair Manual – I learned several important technical ideas from this book. It is worth reading for those. That said, I didn't find most of the poems cited as examples to be to my taste. This book did not inspire me very much but I'm glad I read it.
poemcrazy is the least technical but most inspiring of all the books listed. Despite also being the shortest, it is the only one that I am still reading and, in some parts, re-reading. The author is essentially trying to teach you to live in ways that are likely to result in the appearance of poetry in your life. And you know what? It actually works. You could spend a week or a month experimenting with each of the fifty-odd brief chapters. Unlike all the other books listed, this one is playful. I am absolutely happy and grateful to have it around.