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To be the Poet (William E.Massey Senior Lectures in the History of American Civilization) (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization) [Hardcover]

Maxine Hong Kingston

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Book Description

1 Oct 2002 The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization (Book 2000)
"I have almost finished my longbook, Maxine Hong Kingston declares. "Let my life as Poet begin...I won't be a workhorse anymore; I'll be a skylark". "To Be the Poet" is Kingston's manifesto, the avowal and declaration of a writer who has devoted a good part of her 60 years to writing prose, and who, over the course of this spirited and inspiring book, works out what the rest of her life will be, in poetry. Taking readers along with her, this celebrated writer gathers advice from her gifted contemporaries and from sages, critics, and writers whom she takes as ancestors. She consults her past, her conscience, her time -and puts together a volume at once irreverent and deeply serious, playful and practical, partaking of poetry throughout as it pursues the meaning, the possibility, and the power of the life of the poet. A manual on inviting poetry, on conjuring the elusive muse, "To Be the Poet" is also a harvest of poems, from charms recollected out of childhood to bursts of eloquence, wonder and waggish wit along the way to discovering what it is to be a poet.

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Kingston has written some mighty serious books over the years, and now, at 60, she's kicking up her heels and enjoying the fun of wordsmithing. "To Be the Poet" is her "manifesto."..Kingston pillages her past and plunders the future, assembling a slim volume that's deeply observational and disarmingly witty.--Burl Burlingame"Honolulu Star-Bulletin" (09/22/2002)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charming, if somewhat puzzling, little book 26 Oct 2002
By matthewslaughter - Published on
In this book, Maxine Hong Kingston proclaims to want to live the life of the poet. Working on her "longbook"--her thousand-plus page novel about Vietnam war veterans (her first novel since 1989's "Tripmaster Monkey")--has consumed so much of her life, creatively and otherwise, that she longs to live a poets life. The poets life, as she conceives it, is a life full of peace, surrounded by the most beautiful, beatific, awe-inspiring things. Instead of the arduousness of plots and stories, the brevity and aesthetic succinctness of poetry seems like a much more cozy alternative. Her enthusiasm for the poet's life is always near being tongue-in-cheek. A fellow poet reminds her that poets must revise, like novelists. Also, there's the sense that in arguing for poetry, she is arguing against it by claiming it to be like an aesthetic hit of crack--it's wonderful to experience in short and powerful bursts, then it goes away. So, perhaps, she ends up arguing for the novel ... it's hard to tell. Nevertheless, as she documents her poetry experiments, some nice lines and scenes emerge (particularly the last section of the book, "Spring Harvest," where she experiments with "four word poems"!). She also claims to close "To Be the Poet" with a poem (on Fa Mook Lan--another variation of the Fa Mu Lan myth, a la the "White Tigers" story in "The Woman Warrior") that will end her longbook. Kingston's poetry is hardly "strong" in the Harold Bloom sense but it is pleasant enough. But it leaves us longing even moreso for the "longbook."
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short,Poetic, and Refreshing 12 April 2012
By Bri - Published on
I could not give this book five stars because some parts like the description of the elephant seals was just disturbing even though it was just an accurate description from Maxine Hong Kingston's point of view...and because it could at times be confusing.

What I did like about this book was the quick pace at which it can be read while not sounding shallow. I especially like the little sketches that were doodles drawn literally and figuratively(through words).

I liked seeing the author mature as a poet as the book progressed. The writing got smoother and less disjointed.

I liked how she brought uniqueness to her writing by not being a native speaker of English,because that added and did not take away from her words.

I think this is a nice read for college students on up, just because it provides a little insight into writing that will not only come in handy personally, but also inpersonally by seeing things through Kingston's eyes.
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