Friday, June 13, 2008

Guiding lights?

I write about books on my other blog, My Own Little Reading Room. Once in a while I do talk about books on poetry here, which can be read by all. Let me talk about two books on poetry. Mind you, I have cross posted those from my above mentioned blog.

Title: A Poetry Handbook
Author: Mary Oliver

ISBN: 0156724006

Publisher: Harcourt

Pages: 122

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. However, this book is not about her poetry. According to the book cover, this book is a prose guide to understanding and writing poetry. Both beginner poets
as well as those who love to simply read poetry, can read this book .

She emphasise on reading a lot of poetry. One should read as much poetry as one can and as many poets. She asks us not to go overboard as we can never read every poet. Although we should try to read poetry from wide and varied eras. Learning to write poetry has to start from reading it.

Imitating is not a bad idea as no two poems can be similar. Each poet puts something of his or hers into it. Use of imagery, metaphors should be done in a rhythmic way and we should not go about those just for the heck of it.

She has taught us about different kinds of sounds, intonations, diction, tones and voice. Only when we master these, we can strive for writing better. Different forms of poetry have been explained taking poems by well-known poems. I especially liked ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ by William Carlos Williams.

Mary Oliver says that we need to revise and re-revise our work before we consider it done. It might take a few days. We might even reject it which is again, not a bad idea.

Workshops help us honing skills, teach us the ropes of poetry writing, critiques help us but after a while, it is us who has to come out on our own. We have to learn to be keen observers, to imbibe all that surrounds us and interpret it in our own way. We have t0 learn to be comfortable with ourselves. That is how we can write some good poetry.

'A Poetry Handbook' is a very interesting book even if you do not write a single word of poetry. It teaches to look at poetry in a different way, to find out meanings, which we might miss at first glance. It might not be a poetry book but it is about poetry and is poetic in a sense. I am glad I possess this book and I can leaf through it any time I want too. I know I would be learning something new every time I open it.


Author: Robert Pinsky
ISBN-13: 9780374526176
Publisher: Farrar, Straux and Giroux/1998
Pages: 117

Robert Pinsky is an American poet, who teaches graduate writing programme at Boston University. Here in this book, he takes up poetry in the vocal form. He wants that we should know how to read out poetry loud, where should we pause and where to stop. He gives stress on diction, syntax, accent, verse poetry, metric poetry, free verse and blank verse.

He takes up numerous examples of poems by great poets, breaking the lines for us, teaching us the right intonations for each word, line and whole poem. He believes that poetry has to be vocal and should be peformed in order to comprehend it fully.

I am not saying that I understood it all at one go. This book is to be read very slowly, savoured in the way and should be followed the way he wants us to. He expects us to read aloud all kinds of poetry to understand those better. He says,"Poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art." This book can be read by those who are seriously into poetry and also those who are amateurs. To say, I liked it, is an understatement. This book is for keeps!


I found those books very interesting and informative. Both these books together can be taken as good guides for all poetry writers and poetry lovers. Both the books are worth adding to your collection.


Steve said...

i believe that poetry comes from ones heart and or soul.

there is no right nor wrong in a poets writing.

what is important is the grasping the meaning of whatever the writer wrote about.

i will not.
to conform is to lose my indivuality.

to be able to spell properly would be a blessing!

Anonymous said...

@Steve: Either of these books do not tell us to conform. On the contrary. One reason, I liked those. Mary Oliver's book is one of the best I have come across.

Reading poetry and how, is equally important as writing it.

gP said... sick...high fever...danks for coming. the word verification is for spammers actually... :(

Anonymous said...

Poetry is the oldest form of story telling. A performance that uses inflection and movement to bring an event back to the present.



Anonymous said...

Poetry clarifies life. In few words. It is a gift.

anthonynorth said...

As you know, I'm very new to poetry, but I share Steve's suspicions here. If they really do not try to make you conform, I may well give them a go.

Ian russell said...

as a complete ignoramous, but I have to say this sounds sound to me. I've rarely read a poem that I enjoyed before hearing it read aloud by someone else. though I suspect sometimes a lot of readers, especially of the theatrical persuasion, put too much of themselves into the reading which is not required by the poem. the poem is a complete, self-contained instruction manual on how it should be read, a bit like a musical score. pity the fool who adds a tambourine and kazoo to a mozart concerto.

murat11 said...

No question that Mary Oliver is a queen: her poetry alone is teacher enuff. Peace to you.

rebecca said...

i am not a writer that poetry comes easy to. i find it difficult many times because, i suppose, i analyze it too much asking whether it is good or garbage, whether i am writing it well or not, or am i just winging it and just putting words together and calling it such (which of course is the case as i do not know nor follow the rules of poetry). every now and again i'll get inspired and write something "poetic"; now, whether it it good or not, i wouldn't know....all i know is that it flowed easily from me at the time and "sounded" pleasant and "right" to my ear, however elementary that may sound.

however, i do love to read poetry, my favorite poets/poems being The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, The Nymph's Reply to the Sheperd by Sir Walter Raleigh and, of course, Christopher Marlowe's Passionate Sheperd to His Love. I never tire or rereading them.

Tammy Brierly said...

I always thought a good poet could read well...wrong! I discovered at a poetry reading that it makes a HUGE difference in presenting a poem.

Mary Oliver's book is one I keep close. Love it!

Anonymous said...

I really love the sound of Mary Oliver's book and will try and get hold of a copy - I am a very shy poetry reader. .. and did try my hand at some. There definitely is technique, and it is very very difficult to do it well (and make it readable / understandable) to readers and listeners. It's a great art form.

Cynthia said...

I've been wanting to get Mary
Oliver's book, after reading your
review, it's now on my birthday list.

Divinedesign said...



One of my fave lines by her: 'all you have to do is let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.'

danni said...

my poet seems to be like a dissociated piece of me that only comes out when it wants to, and doesn't like to stay about too long --- thanks for pointing out a couple of guidelines that might nurture the poetic interest a bit more

Anonymous said...

Crazy! I bought four books the other day, and those two are two of them. I guess I didn't choose two bad books then! I'm hoping they improve my writing.

gautami tripathy said...

Noah, this is the longest comment you ever made here on my blog!

Left-handed Trees... said...

I have read (and re-read and re-read) the Oliver, but not Pinsky (oddly enough since I heard him read once and he was amazing). Since I'm deep in my summer-reading right now, this might be one I pick up to savor!

polona said...

i suppose a bit of education in the field of poetry can't be bad.
i will be looking for these books...

Bill said...

Mary Oliver's "Rules for the Dance," a handbook for writing metrical verse, is also worth reading.

LA Nickers said...

Informative! Thanks.


IN MY FATHER’S FIELD, at Nickers and Ink

Traveler said...

I love Mary Oliver's poetry... thanks for the info!

Gemma Wiseman said...

I am quite ignorant of Mary Oliver's work, but you have etched out an intriguing review.

Granny Smith said...

This is a different kiind of "guide" than most of us chose in response to the prompt, and it is a timely reminder to those of us who are poets that we need never stop learning and improving our expressions of our deepest selves.

Thank you for the book reviews!

anno said...

So funny, I just received Mary Oliver's book as a gift, and I love it already. Will have to look for the Robert Pinsky book...

Anonymous said...

I need this book! I write poetry, I read poetry, but I don't understand poetry. I just don't get the rules and the disciplines. I'm too much of a free spirit to conform. I'm off to Amazon right now!

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

You know I always wanted to be called a guide rather than a teacher! My shelf of writing books is growing bigger. I want to add the Mary Oliver "Handbook..." A handbook for poetry. I did not know there was such a thing.


Jennifer Hicks said...

I love the idea that Mary Oliver guides us to believe that imitating is a healthy thing to do...

Prats said...

Like Keith says....I write and read poetry...but yes, i've never known the rights and wrongs of it.
I somehow would love to keep it that way....worried if i'd start getting too typical with the way it should be written
But since I love reading I will pick up these books and read them.