The author introduces his book saying it contains "my favorite tools for tuning up the poems you write". From discussing the poet's "job description" to the necessity of writing clear understandable poetry, from how poets should serve the poems they write to the necessity of having an imaginary reader in mind, from the importance of titles and opening lines, to cutting out unnecessary words, from ryhme to writing about feelings, writing from memory, how best to use anecdote, fine tuning similes and metaphors, and to a most inspiring chapter dedicated to "detail", this book guides readers to writing (and reading) poetry with greater sensitivity.
Among the many tools for fine tuning, the author sheds light on the connection between the specific choices a poet makes and their outcome, revealing ways in which a poet could manipulate such choices more consciously to achieve the desired results.
Throughout the book, the author quotes numerous poems to demonstrate his meaning, many of which are striking, some unforgettable. While some of the examples are from his poetry, he draws heavily on the work of other contemporary poets, enlarging the scope of the book to include many other voices and visions than his own.
Although deep insight permeates its every line, the book is written in clear and accessible language and a delightful sense of humour. The author possesses the gift of instructing with a light touch, revealing a great deal of information, while staying out of the way, a feat that requires a delicate and artful balancing act that is the mark of a true guide.
Spent some years trawling through reviews and buying many books on writing poetry. How do you choose a book which is of genuine use? I've learnt one thing: Only buy ones written by good practicing poets! And Ted Kooser is definitely one of them. I would liken the majority I've read to a car engine manual. They talk in detail about all the technical aspects but only Kooser tells you where the ignition switch is! And what's more, he shows you how to turn the ignition-switch on! His wise words kindle the spark which initiates genuine poetry. Buy two copies - your first will be annotated and dog-eared in no time at all! Life is too short to read irrelevant rubbish. Read Ted Kooser, read his poetry, and start writing - you won't be disappointed, and you won't disappoint your future readers!
Neither this book nor any other will turn the reader into a poet, but it is a useful manual for someone who has started to try that form of writing. It has twelve chapters, the first nine of which deal with approaches and techniques, not in any prescriptive sense - there is no recipe - but there is plenty of food for thought. Having pointed out that you are unlikely to make a living from poetry, Kooser looks at approaches to the reader, communicaton of ideas, various poetic forms, rythm, feelings and restraint, use of memory and various pitfalls. He quotes interesting examples for discussion, occasionally of the sentimental American rural style which doesn't appeal to me, but there were interesting poems unknown to me which I noted.
Later chapters of the book are about specific forms - use of nouns, verbs, line endings, tense, metaphor and simile and selection of appropriate words. Finally there is advice about letting work mature (relax and wait), joining groups of writers and a little advice on publishing. References and notes are given at the end for the sources used
The book has 157 pages and doesn't give all the answers - how could any ? - but should initiate thought to continue in the individual reader's experience. In that context I give it 5 stars.
Like having a friend to help you along with your writing. easy going and enjoyable to work with. Can't go wrong. I'm still working with this. I'll update you know when I get the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hmmmmm?