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153 of 157 found the following review helpful:
Advice From TedFeb 28, 2005
By James Hiller
Ted Kooser, our most current Poet Laureate, writes some of the most accesible poetry around today. Reflective of his Midwestern origins, his poetry is lyrical and simple, beautiful and stunning. Just pick up any of one of his many books, and delve into his works to appreciate why he has earned this national honor. Kooser, teacher that he is, has responded in kind, and written for us a wonderful manual on the art of writing poetry, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual".
The subtitle of this work is "Practical Advice for Beginning Poets", but I daresay this book can be a guide for anyone interested in the art of poetry. I myself have dabbled in poetry since high school years, and I found this guide insightful. It allowed me to reflect upon my own work, illuminating what I've been doing well and supporting change in other areas. It also ignited a renewed interest in writing poetry, which had fallen off since a recent foray into screenwriting.
Kooser writes this non-fiction book like a poet would. There are some absolutely beautiful images that Koosher paints to elaborate his points. He describes the first few lines of a poem as an invitation to a houseguest, which we welcome into the poem for a short stay. These, and others, are indelible images that you can retain as you write.
Also, fortunately, Koosher shies away from long, arduous explanations on the mechanics of writing poetry. One of the ways to turn people off quicker to this writing is to demand an understanding of meter and rhyme. Koosher's discussion is quick and painless, kuch like tearing off a band-aid. He suggests focusing on emotions and memories, yet talks about the mechanics as a way to bring it to your awareness.
Kooser has given us a gift in this book. His inital discussion in the book about making poetry understandable is right on. So much of poetry is lost on the masses because the context of the poetry is lost on the reader. You know you should understand the poem, and appreciate it, but in reality, it's way beyond anyone besides scholars.. Kooser's book itself is a well-written, understandable kick-in-the-pants to everyone who loves poetry, both the reading and the writing of it.
59 of 62 found the following review helpful:
A must-have book for all poets and readers of poetryApr 29, 2005
This is the best book on writing poetry I have ever read. Kooser takes you by the hand and walks you through the poems, pointing out what makes each unique along the way. The book, itself, is beautifully written. Kooser makes you want to read and write poetry again.
Every newspaper in the country should publish his column on poetry! Let's start something..... Can you imagine what just might happen if we all woke up and read a poem in the morning and thought about that all day, talked about it at the office?
38 of 40 found the following review helpful:
Kooser knows what he's talking aboutNov 08, 2005
By Martin H. Dickinson
"Walker in the woods, distance runner"
Having just won the Pulitzer Prize and being named to a second term as Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser ought to know what he's talking about--and he really does. This book is filled with practical advice and a wealth of ideas and techniques for his fellow poets. He is really strong on simile and metaphor and how to use them correctly. He is also very insightful on how to work with detail. Most books about poetry have lots of exercises and dwell on the topics you might write about--how to get your ideas together. Kooser breaks the pattern of the typical poetry manual: no exercises, but tons of practical advice. You can hear him talking over your shoulder. One of the greatest things Kooser does is remind us that the poem is directed to a reader--gets us thinking about our audience, who they are and what they want. A poem is communication--a poem is intended to be read by someone.
I find one of the most interesting things to be Ted Kooser's reflections on poetry itself which light up every page with their wisdom and wit. We learn, for example that most of our poetry nowadays is anectodal--a kind of "cracker barrel" set of anecdotes about our own lives--and he doesn't really criticize this so much as point it out and suggest it wasn't always this way, and it doesn't need to be this way. Writing a poem is about choices and you have the option of stepping back from the window of the poem and not having yourself in it quite so much. He suggests going out on "poetry patrol," in the supermarket, the yard sales, the cafes to do people watching. This is exactly what Whitman did. You can tell Walt Whitman went out and watched the carpenter sawing through the plank, smelled the sawdust, watched the sailor making the boat fast to the dock etc. -- that's how you get so much specific and concrete detail.
It's obvious from reading Kooser's own poetry that he practices what he preaches. He has an eye, and ears and a nose for the specific and concrete details of the real world--just as Whitman.
One of his most interesting observations is about the way metaphor and simile create a bridge to another dimension of seeing--another plane of existence. He doesn't exactly call this spiritual or make any metaphysical claim for this special place that poetry brings us to--but it's very exciting to hear him talk about. Something to strive for in writing. The best poets take us there. Beginners can use this--but it's not just for beginners.
Anyone wanting to write poetry or simply read more attentitively will find The Poetry Home Repair Manual a superb guidebook.
16 of 16 found the following review helpful:
The Effect of the Teacher we all wish we'd had.Jan 09, 2007
By India Susanne Holden
I must confess two things: I'm already a Kooser fan and I only found him because he's the current poet laureate of the United States.
But since I came upon him he's become my favorite, not only for his superb writing, but for the person who shines through in every sentence in his poems and in this book, The Poetry Home Repair Manual. What this book isn't, is a list of all the do's and don'ts, of forms and rules. It's not a list at all, but an invitation to have a fireside chat about poetry, get cozy and talk about our favorite subject. And because Ted is a gifted teacher he can't help but share the kinds of observations that let us come away with tremendous insight and learning. What this means is that, as a result of reading The Poetry Home Repair Manual, you will become a better poet (if what you do is write poetry), and someone whose insight into poetry has increased so much that poetry becomes revealed like never before (if you are a reader of poetry). Now here's the bonus: Because Ted Kooser is generous instead of elitist, kind instead of exacting, and possesses a gentle heart and a wise mind you will have access like never before to use your own discernments with regard to poetry. Only last night I was able to put aside a poet with whom I never connected, without guilt. Five stars are not enough! Ted sets you free.
14 of 14 found the following review helpful:
The Teacher You Wish You'd HadAug 02, 2005
By G. Goodwin
This may be the best book ever written on the craft of poetry.
Ted Kooser is an artist good enough to be the country's current Poet Laureate, wise enough not to take himself too seriously, and humorous enough to make his students laugh while learning writing techniques worth their weight in gold.
A wise son of the Midwast and longtime professor, Kooser takes apart some favorite poems (including his own) to illustrate why he prefers concrete words over the esoteric. He explains the use of nuance and induction, the power of keen observation, and best of all how to make a poem connect with the reader (and editors).
Reading this wonderful little book will make it easier to write a poem and likely make that poem better than it might otherwise have been. Instructive and fun to read.
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