I have approached the act of writing poetry from a practitioner’s perspective, and as it is first and foremost an act of play, I have provided strategies and detailed practices that nurture and maintain creative states necessary for all stages of writing. First drafts are approached with an emphasis on spontaneity and freewriting. Revision is practiced with an open mind toward possibility. To balance the nature of poetry’s need for spontaneity, I have placed an equal emphasis on the need for discipline and the benefits of reading widely and deeply to understand poetry’s roots. In an effort to foster insight into what poetry actually is and what it does, I have included philosophical perspectives, linguistic origins of key terms associated with poetry writing, and the understanding of poetry expressed by a variety of American poets. I believe it is important for students to master both sides of the poetry writing equation—the ability to create and be in the now, and the knowledge of what came before, so that we may feel connected to poetry’s tradition and participate in its lineage. In an effort to foster the skills, patience, and joy that comes from reading poems, I have included a chapter entitled “How to Read a Poem” that opens the book. For how can one write a poem if one cannot read one?
Throughout the book there is an emphasis on the five senses and honing our powers of attention and observation, which allow us to be finely attuned with the images and the language of our poems. I have integrated approaches for writing poetry from other genres—not just from poets—as writing poetry benefits from approaches used in writing fiction and nonfiction, as well as in the other arts like acting. In addition, I have detailed approaches for the entire life of a poem—from freewriting a first draft to submitting poetry for publication to reading poems out loud to an audience. I have approached the writing of poetry in the classroom as an act that focuses on the reader, with the intention of making the poem something to be shared with an audience. Included is an appendix with links to digital sources and recommendations for print sources that can enhance and deepen learning.
In writing this book I faced the challenge of not being able to include every poem and poet and essay and exercise and resource that I love and know could help students to learn and professors to teach. It is a project that I could’ve kept expanding and revising for the rest of my life! I have worked the best I could to produce a book that I believe offers effective advice for student poets and provides access to an incredible wealth of poetry that will teach and inspire. I imagine this book working in tandem with a professor’s favorite poems and resources. In order to provide students with a holistic understanding of the life of poetry, you might consider teaching this book in partnership with a full contemporary collection of poems, a copy of a recent literary journal, attendance of formal readings by published poets, and scheduled times for students to read formally to each other.
I hope this book on craft serves you and your students well, and that you, too, discover new poets and pleasures as you make your way through it.