Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holiday Gift Books for Poets


Since I posted these recommendations two years ago, both The Crafty Poet and Wingbeats have been joined by companion volumes, so this seems like a good time to update my recommendations.

Poets love nothing more than books. A book is always the right gift for a poet, and if it’s a poetry book, then it’s the perfect gift. We poets devour books of poems, but we also love craft books and prompt books. Why? Because we’re always honing our skills and always looking for new ideas for poems. So I have two pairs of books and a singleton to suggest for you and your poet pals.

Now some of you might wonder why I’d be recommending craft books other than my own. Here’s why: Most poets need and want multiple books on craft. We can’t get enough of them. My own shelves are loaded with craft books. Each one has something to offer that the others don’t. That’s certainly true of the ones I’m about to recommend. Together, they should keep you and your friends growing and writing for a long time. I have them arranged here in what seems to me a logical order, from craftiest to promptiest.

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1. The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. Edited by Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books, 2016.

This sequel to the original The Crafty Poet picks up where the first book left off, but it also can stand by itself. It is a poetry tutorial ideal for use in the classroom, in workshops, or at home. It includes craft tips, model poems, prompts, and Q&As. Contributors include more than 100 of our finest poets, among them 16 current and former state poets laureate. You will find work by such poets as Tony Hoagland, Laura Kasischke, Alberto Rios, and Ellen Bass.

Like the original, The Crafty Poet II is organized into ten sections, including such topics as "Revising Your Process," "Entryways into Poems," "Expanding the Material," and "Revision."

All ten sections include three craft tips, each provided by an experienced, accomplished poet. Each of the thirty craft tips is followed by a Model poem and a Prompt based on the poem. Each model poem is used as a mentor. Each prompt is followed by two Sample poems which suggest the possibilities for the prompts and should provide for good discussion about what works and what doesn't. Each section includes a Poet on the Poem Q&A about the craft elements in one of the featured poet's poems. Each section then concludes with a Bonus Prompt, each of which provides a stimulus on those days when you just can't get your engine started.

Comments:
The biggest reason to read her books? They're fun. Poetry is fun. And the poems in The Crafty Poet II will leave you Wowed. They will jazz you up, compel you to write your own poems. There are many poems and prompts to get you started writing, using the same tools our finest poets use.—BB

The Crafty Poet II, like its predecessor, is full of a wide range of inspiring prompts, tips, and examples. In a large market of books on the craft of poetry, both Crafty Poet books stand out in their clarity, dynamic suggestions, and fun. And I really mean fun. One can see the joy both the contributors and the editor, Diane Lockward, have in poetry and that makes this book a vital source to have on one’s shelf, whether you are a new poet or a seasoned one.—MTY


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 2. The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, Revised Edition by Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books, 2016.

This book includes craft tips, model poems, and prompts based on the craft elements in the model poems. In addition, each of the ten sections includes a Q&A with one poet about the craft elements in a single poem. Each section ends with a short bonus prompt that can be used over and over again. The material is organized by craft concepts such as Diction, Imagery / Figurative Language, and Line / Stanza / Syntax. Fifty-six poets, including 13 former and current state poets laureate, contributed the craft tips, model poems, and Q&As. An additional 45 accomplished poets contributed sample poems written to the prompts, two for each prompt. The book is craft-oriented and is ideal for classroom, workshop, or individual use.

This Revised Edition includes a full Table of Contents and an Index.

Named a Best Book for Writers by Poets & Writers Magazine
In this resource for poets, Lockward offers practical advice and insights about establishing sound, voice, and syntax in poetry while also providing writing prompts and other poems as inspiration.

Comments:
I received your The Crafty Poet in the mail today and found that I was only a few pages in when I was compelled to go get a pen. Not sure why, since I just held it in my hand while I read, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with sitting down to a feast without a fork.—JE

Writers and teachers of writing: If you’re looking for a book that illuminates the nuances of poetic craft, then you’ll find The Crafty Poet to be a terrific teaching tool. It’s also a powerful text for individuals seeking to break through creative blocks. You’ll encounter model poems with accompanying prompts, interviews with poets, discussions of process and inspiration, and more.—CD 

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1. Wingbeats II: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2014.

This eagerly awaited follow-up to the original Wingbeats is an exciting collection from teaching poets. It includes 58 poets and 59 exercises. Whether you want a quick exercise to jump-start the words or multi-layered approaches that will take you deeper into poetry, Wingbeats II is for you.

The exercises include clear step-by-step instruction and numerous example poems, including work by Lucille Clifton, Li-Young Lee, Cleopatra Mathis, Ezra Pound, Kenneth Rexroth, Patricia Smith, William Carlos Williams, and others. You will find exercises for collaborative writing, for bending narrative into new poetic shapes, for experimenting with persona, for writing nonlinear poems.

For those interested in traditional elements, Wingbeats II includes exercises on the sonnet, as well as approaches to meter, line breaks, syllabics, and more. Like its predecessor, Wingbeats II will be a standard in creative writing classes, a standard go-to in every poet's library.

Comments:
Whether pursuing the poetic muse on one's own or with a writing crew, Wingbeats II will be an accessible, surprisingly fun bag of tricks, toolbox, serious simulator for those who want to play. I'd suggest purchasing Wingbeats II, today.—MW

This book belongs on every writer's shelf! A wide variety of voices and approaches, with sample poems in every essay, this teaching collection has something for everyone.—anon


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2. Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen, Dos Gatos Press, 2011.

This is a collection of sixty-one prompts contributed by fifty-eight poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, and Oliver de la Paz. The book is organized into seven sections under such concepts as Springboards to Imagination, Exploring the Senses, and Structure and Form. The exercises range from quick and simple to involved and multi-layered. Prompts include such intriguing titles as "Metaphor: Popcorn, Popcorn, Leaping Loud," "Aping the Masters: Poems in Imitation," and "My Mother's Clothes." The book's focus is on prompts, but most of them are preceded by some discussion regarding purpose and benefits; you will find some craft material included in those discussions. The contributing poets were asked to follow a suggested format, so you will find clear step-by-step instructions and sample poems that were written to the exercises. Ideal for the classroom, workshop, or individual writing space.

Comments:
Wingbeats is a fabulous toolbox of innovative and practical ideas that literally every teacher of poetry workshops and at every level, from elementary poets-in-the-schools through the graduate MFA, will find indispensable. Covering a vast range from image to sound to form, the exercises are all concrete and clearly presented—a marvelous way to mine the imaginations and experiences of today’s most dynamic poets. Invaluable!—CS

No teacher, no aspiring poet should be without the gentle guidance of this book.—GR


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3. The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice, by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, Two Sylvias Press, 2013.

The 365 prompts in this collection were all written by the two authors, both of them well-published poets. The book evolved out of several years of their regular writing dates during which they challenged each other with prompts. The book is arranged like a calendar with one prompt for every day of the year, though the user is free to skip around. Quite a few of the prompts begin with a reference to some historical event that occurred on that day. While the book is strictly brief prompts, many of them ask you to employ craft elements. This book is suitable for a beginning poet or one with a lot of experience but in search of some new ideas. It can be used in a classroom to supplement assignments, in workshop groups, or at home by the poet working alone.

Recommended by The Huffington Post Books:
. . . you could use The Daily Poet year after year and track how your writing evolves. Or you can just crack open the book, pick one out at have at it. They're all equally thought provoking.

Comments:
The variety of prompts also encouraged creative exploration of topics I might not have considered fertile ground for poetry (candy cigarettes, anyone?). For me, this is the book’s greatest gift to its user: its power to dig deep inside the rabbit holes of your poet’s brain and/or subconscious and pull out work that might never have been pulled out without it.—MS

Whether you write to prompts on your own or you use them when you meet with writing groups or with a friend at a coffee shop, there is something here for everyone.—DV


If you need to select just one of these books, I hope I've given you enough of a description that you can choose. But what I really hope is that you will choose all five.

By the way, Scott Wiggerman, co-editor of both Wingbeats books, has work in both of my Crafty Poet books; I have a lesson and prompt in Wingbeats II; Martha Silano, co-editor of The Daily Poet, has work in the original Crafty Poet; and both Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, co-editors of The Daily Poet, have work in The Crafty Poet II. 


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