Donald Hall on Poetry: Revising, Sharing, & Critiquing

While reading The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, I jumped to the "Postscriptum," where Hall offers up some thoughts on poetry writing -- and especially on poetry sharing with someone who could give competent feedback. In Hall's lucky case, he was married to that person, fellow poet Jane Kenyon, until she died of leukemia at the ridiculously …

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Dillard and Chee: Writing Teacher and Student

I just finished Alexander Chee's essay collection How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. The thing about essays written in the first person is the effect. As is true with first-person POV novels, you begin to feel as though you know the author. Of course you do not, but the conceit is there, and at times …

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The Importance of Imagery in “Sit and Write” Poems

There are ekphrastic poems, yes, where you write about another painter's vision on canvas, but what about your own vision when you're just hanging out in a favorite spot? That's the premise of what I call a "Sit and Write" poem---one that puts your description skills to the test. For example, I give you Charles …

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The Number One Trait of a True Poet?

What is the number one trait of a true poet? Good question, and one which opens with talking points about the abstract (traits like "creativity") vs. the concrete (harder-edged stuff, like "skills"). For the sake of argument, then, let's dig in with skills. Some skills you'd like to find in an accomplished poet's toolbox might …

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Writing Workshop: 10 Holiday Poetry Prompts

Today is the Winter Solstice, the official day for holiday poetry prompts. Yes, it's winter for all of us northern hemisphere types and officially summer for all of those people laughing at us from the southern hemi. Are we jealous? No. We have writing to do, and enough cozy indoors to do it in. Here …

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Mommy Dearest vs. Writers Block (Like Godzilla vs. King Kong!)

Just finished John McPhee's newest collection of essays, Draft No. 4, and though it's not a writing advice book per se, it does contain its fair share of writerly wisdom, many of interest to poets. Here are some quotes from the book along with comments from the peanut gallery. "Though a man be more prone …

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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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If Every Word Is Suspect, Your Writing Will Be Arresting

Here's something I learned from the late Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: If every word is suspect, your writing will be arresting. What does this mean? It means writing--especially poetry writing--cannot always be a prisoner of denotation. Of course, specific language serves the creative writer's purposes for imagery, but there has to be more: not only …

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