Rules for Writers: A Baker’s Dozen

Here are some suggested daily habits for writers. It's OK if they are broken because that's what resolutions in habits' clothing are meant to suffer! Still, let us amuse ourselves as if rules are hard and fast: If you have little or no discipline around technology, keep a writing notebook. Buy the best damned notebook …

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Damned* Adjectives II: The Sequel

Yesterday's game was such a mad success with online poet-gamers and poet-grammar lovers (in both cases, their numbers are legion) that I thought I'd follow up with a contemporary poet, the wildly creative Dean Young. The first version of his poem below, "Hammer," features highlighted adjectives. Some of them are his adjectives and belong. Some …

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Damned* Adjectives (Again)

It's easy--too easy--to damn adjectives all to hell and preach the Word: Thou shalt scorn both adjectives and their brothers-in-crime, adverbs, when writing and revising poems. But the truth of the matter is less black and white and more perplexingly gray. So assign your poet writers-to-be (or, more wisely, yourself) the task of writing poems …

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Work in Progress — A Better Way

We all know the joke by now--the sign on the road reading MEN WORKING. It's how we learned the word "oxymoron" as the car sped past workers in hardhats leaning on shovels, sipping Dunkin Donuts coffees, chatting each other up. "Work in Progress" is another matter, one with greater meaning and impact. As my third …

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The Art of Writing a Poem’s First Lines

In his book The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Ted Kooser writes, "The titles and first few lines of your poem represent the hand you extend in friendship toward your reader. They're the first exposure he or she has, and you want to make a good impression. You also want to swiftly and gracefully draw your …

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The Story of the “Last Poem In”

As your publisher's deadline approaches for the final version of a manuscript, decisions must be made. Is a poem too weak? And, if you pull it, do you have something stronger to replace it? These sound like easy questions, but when you consider how unpredictable tastes in poetry can be and, more importantly, how difficult …

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Jane Hirshfield’s Handout on Revision

In their book, The Poet's Companion, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux share a worksheet Jane Hirshfield created for a Napa Valley Writers' Conference she taught. Can you imagine? Being surrounded by both the poet Jane Hirshfield and hundreds of wineries? Sounds inspiring to me (and rated 90-plus by the Poetry Advocate), but I have yet to …

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