Poetry Pop Shop: The Crafty Poet

On Poetry Pop, you will periodically get posts titled, Poetry Pop Shop, where I introduce some fun writerly or readerly gadgets I think you might enjoy. Today, I want to share one of my favorite books on the craft with you. The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward is my go-to book when I need a little inspiration or poetry exercise.

This book for aspiring and practicing poets delves into subjects such as generating material, diction, syntax, voice, revision, writer’s block, and more. Each chapter is comprised of craft tips, examples, poems, prompts, and interviews by some of our nations finest poets. I’ve chosen two of my favorite chapters from the book to highlight here.

Craft Tip #6: Importing New Words by Marilyn L. Taylor

I will go out on a limb and say most poets, like myself, have notebooks full of abandoned poems. This chapter is dedicated to diction (style depended on the choice of words) and a strategy to help you shake up and rescue a draft that you’ve given up on. The author suggests you flip through your notebook and make a list of your twelve favorite words, pull out an abandoned poem, and rewrite it using every one of those twelve words. Adjusting tense, etc., as you go. As the author promises, I’ve tried this, and I was amazed at the transformation of my poem.

The chapter goes on to give sample poems and prompts and ends with an interview with the author on her techniques and thoughts on the included poetry.

CRAFT TIP #18: CONFRONTING YOUR FEARS by Alicia Ostriker

With this craft tip, the author says we have fears from the time we are born and suggests we write what we are afraid to write. She goes on to say that we should use our fears, bring them up from the subconscious and find the words to express them and when we do, readers will relate “because your deep truth will speak to their own mute depths.”

One of her sample poems is by Muriel Rukeyser that “reminds us of how much we share as human beings, literally under the surface”:

Islands
Oh for God's sake
they are connected
underneath

Alicia Ostriker lists five methods of how to go fishing for the truth:

  1. When someone else’s poem strikes you as brave, choose a word or image from that poem and start riffing on it.
  2. When a memory of keen suffering or keen delight rises in your mind, picture the scene—go for the images.
  3. When you hear the inner censor warning, Don’t say that—catch the moment, and start saying it.
  4. When you find yourself explaining or commenting, stop. Go back to the images.

Get your copy and get crafty

I should note that I do not benefit from the author or publisher by recommending this book. I simply want to share it with my readers because it has helped me write better poetry, and I think you, too might enjoy The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop.

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