Both God & the Devil Are in the Details

Years ago, when I decided to dip a toe in the poetry waters, I purchased a book that has since become a favorite due to its practicality: Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual. I occasionally go back and flip through it anew, amazed how the old appears new again and the read appears unread again …

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The No-No of Playing Favorites

Je regrette, but it's true. I play favorites among my children. No, not those children. My poetry children. What's weird is, often a published author's favorite poems are not ones that ever saw the light of poetry-published day in a journal or magazine. You will not find them on the book's acknowledgment page, in other words. …

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Fake Muses: Drugs, Alcohol, & Insomnia

I can't tell you how many people associate artistic genius with substance abuse. History, they say, proves their point. Romantic poets (e.g. Coleridge) on opium. Not-so-romantic poets (e.g. Bukowski) on booze. And writers of all stripes (e.g. Poe) on most everything, some of which land you in a Baltimore gutter for good ("Nevermore...".) For some …

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Poetry in an Age of Anxiety

Yesterday, while reading the Sunday New York Times, I came across this article called "America's New 'Anxiety' Disorder", which alluded to the title of W.H. Auden's poem, "The Age of Anxiety," in its first paragraph. Terrorism, the threat of nuclear war, the rise of authoritarian governments and nationalism--these do, indeed, make for a potent brew of …

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My Rejection Note, Their Marketing Tool

Writers attract rejection via the inbox like electricity draws dust via static cling. It's just part of the game. Sometimes, though, Emperor Nero publications add thumbs-down insult to injury, salt to wound, in- to dignity, when they use rejections as marketing opportunities. You know. Something like this: Dear Writer: Thanks for submitting your work to Poems …

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Joe Queenan Loves Books. Poets? Not So Much.

I just finished a round-trip to South Carolina, traveling my favorite way--on a train where I can read to the rumble of tracks in that glorious Amtrak invention known as the quiet car (all *$%& cellphones SILENCED, thank you). After wrapping up the complete Jack Gilbert poetry collection, I turned to a light read in …

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Hugo’s Rules (of Thumb) for Poetry Writers

Rules. More rules. Sometimes rules are good, if they're "of thumb," I mean. Unlike compulsory ones, rules of thumb can be treated like Pied Pipers or given the thumb. I just finished Richard Hugo's book, The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing. Some of the essays are more memoir-ish than poetry advice-ish, …

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