Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Working Poet: 75 Writing Exercises and a Poetry Anthology has just been released by Autumn House Press. Edited by Scott Minar, the book gathers together 75 poetry prompts contributed by 52 poets, one of whom is me! The exercises are divided into 9 sections: Form and Structure, Word Play and Thought Experiments, Metamorphoses, Art to Art, The Personal Poem, Prosody and Rhetorical Strategies, Nature and Observation, Metapoetry, and Refining Poetry.
This will be a very useful book to teachers and workshop leaders. It should also be a great source of inspiration for working poets whose muses refuse to visit on a daily basis. In fact, the title suggests the premise of the book, i.e., writing poetry is more work than inspiration. These exercises give us something to work with.
I have circled page numbers for several dozen exercises that I plan to try myself. I've already got one underway, a sonnet exercise contributed by Pen Pearson. I also expect that many of these exercises will be useful to me when I visit schools. I'm always looking for new ideas. This book gives me many.
Each exercise is accompanied by at least one sample poem to illustrate what might result from the exercise. Other possible sample poems are listed for the reader to find elsewhere. Some of the poets whose exercises are included: Terrance Hayes, Richard Jackson, Jan Beatty, Martha Silano, Sheryl St. Germain, Neil Carpathios, Christopher Buckley, Susan Rich, Robin Becker, and Susan Ludvigson. There are also two essays on poetry and teaching.
My only complaint is the inclusion of the anthology of poems by 27 Autumn House poets. These poems follow the exercises and add an additional 100 pages to an already substantial book. There is no perceivable connection between the exercises and the anthology. Others may feel grateful to have the bonus of more poems; I'd prefer a lighter book.