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Writing Poems (7th Edition) por Michelle…

Writing Poems (7th Edition) (original 1982; edición 2007)

por Michelle Boisseau, Robert Wallace, Randall Mann

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339458,020 (3.82)1
Writing Poems, 5/e, offers well-balanced coverage of the creative process and technical aspects of writing poetry. Filled with practical advice for the beginning poet, the text is a thorough exposition of principles, a reliable handbook, and a convenient anthology that draws on poems. This market-leading text can be used at either the graduate or undergraduate level.… (más)
Título:Writing Poems (7th Edition)
Autores:Michelle Boisseau
Otros autores:Robert Wallace, Randall Mann
Info:Longman (2007), Edition: 7, Paperback, 336 pages
Colecciones:Tu biblioteca

Detalles de la obra

Writing Poems por Robert Wallace (1982)


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My main takeaway is that I really like this book, and have found it very helpful.

I do think it would be of more use to someone taking a formal poetry class than to someone in my situation, attempting to improve their poetry writing on their own - indeed, the book is addressed to students in such classes, and regularly references concepts like "your class" and "your classmates' poems."

However, it is still a great tool for the solo beginner poet, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get into, or back into, poetry writing.

I've found the exercises, in particular, of great usefulness. More than one of the poems I've written so far this month have grown out of exercises suggested in this book.

The prose itself leans toward the poetic, which is hardly surprising given that all three authors are poets themselves, which made the experience of reading it more fun.

The book covers a breadth of topics and is organized in a way that really worked for me. There is also an introductory section for teachers and professors advising different ways the book might be approached, depending on whether it's being used for a poetry class, a general creative writing class, a single unit of a broader subject, etc.

In the years since this seventh edition came out in 2008, though, certain elements of the book have become dated.

The discussion of poetry journals and submission practices at the end of the book, for instance, is considerably out of date - it mentions that "a few journals have begun to accept only electronic submissions," and advises an if-in-doubt submission strategy involving bond paper and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. From the vantage point of 2021, that whole section is largely functionally useless.

And, of course, no poems, poets, or changes in the landscape of English-language poetry later than the 2008 publication date appear in this edition.

I would definitely recommend that someone looking for a copy of their own try for a newer edition, assuming that one has been issued. ( )
  Julie_in_the_Library | Apr 25, 2021 |
Not quite as good as its fiction counterpart, but still useful. ( )
  UtopianElle | Jun 3, 2010 |
Please see bfrank's review from November 19, 2007 elsewhere on this website.
  Bookmoth | Apr 24, 2008 |
About the creative writing workshops that have sprung up in colleges and universities all across the country, I have serious doubts. Understand, I am a proud graduate of the University of Iowa, and the Iowa Writers Workshop was one of the first and has been one of the most influential. Many of its graduates, and all of its instructors, are distinguished men and women of letters. I honor that achievement and rejoice.

But I am not sure that the writing of poetry or fiction can be taught. It can be encouraged, recognized, refined, promoted, and respected. But taught? Some techniques, yes. Some forms and genres, perhaps. But its essence? I’m doubtful. With the proliferation of writing workshops, we have created institutions where poets read and write for one another, where students learn (or do not learn) to imitate their mentors, where the writers more and more become an enclave, separated from the populace, from prospective readers who live and read in a workaday world. Understand, too, that you are reading words written by one who enrolled in a graduate course in fiction writing, which he dropped after only one or two weeks—driven away not by harsh criticism but by faint praise, by a clash of values and styles, one who never attempted fiction writing again and has no regrets, one whose vocation (in the old, original sense of one’s calling) has been in the teaching of young readers and writers, and in the mentoring of prospective teacher educators.

I write poetry. I take immense pleasure in writing poetry. I do not publish, and have no need to. I rarely share what I have written, and then only with close family and friends. I suspect that we need no more Writing Workshops than we have major conservatories of music. Where we need writing groups is in adult education programs, senior centers, summer resorts like the old chatauqua, hospitals and prisons and military bases, churches and synagogues and temples, the YMCA and the YWCA, communes and communities, Rotary clubs and professional retreats, nudist camps and strip clubs and Masters and Johnson sex clinics. Like church and community choirs, private piano recitals, teenagers’ jam sessions in their parents’ garages, and karaoke bars, writers need to write for themselves, to themselves, in their own private lives, in their own quiet settings, and in their own self-fulfilling ways.

But, having said all this, IF I were ever to teach (or take) a course in the writing of poetry — or if I were to lead one, say, a summer workshop in a chatauqua, and IF I were to select a basic text—two very large IF’s—I almost certainly would turn to Writing Poems by Robert Wallace (Little Brown, 1982). Even if I did not require it as a textbook, I might use it as a teacher’s manual. Why? Because of its common sense.

In the first place, he begins where poets should begin: with the line. Verse turns upon the line (cf. reverse, inverse, obverse, introvert, extrovert, etc., from the same root word)—like a plowman turning at the end of a furrow.

“Line is the core of verse. The poet’s sensitivity to line, an awareness of its effect on the other elements of a poem, is central to craftsmanship.”

“All this . . . might be presented in prose, but it occurs more naturally, more succinctly in verse. The compression of verse calls for an alertness of attention, word by word, line by line, that we rarely give to prose. . . . We half expect the prose to continue, whereas the poem seems finished, complete, calling us again and again to explore it. Prose, like a straight line, extends to the horizon. Verse, like a spiral, draws us into itself.”

Verse is defined by line. Poems are vertical, not horizontal. Using a poem by e e cummings as an example, Wallace shows us how “the lines of the poem break the flow of the statement, isolating its elements for emphasis. . . . The poem’s verticality aids us in perceiving . . . .”

Sadly, most amateur writers of verse force themselves to start with rhymes and rhyme schemes, with formal rhythm and meter, with greeting-card verse and the lyrics of pop music, with couplets and quatrains, with the traditional ballad or hymn stanza. Well, Emily Dickinson did the same thing. All of her hundreds of poems are written in a variation of the hymn stanza (four lines, 4-3-4-3 beats, that is alternating tetrameter and trimeter, rhyming aBcB). But, oh, what an awareness she had of the breaking of her lines.

Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

In his first chapter, “Verse Is: Catsup and Diamonds,” Wallace soon takes up the issue of form. Using two of my favorite examples (Whitman’s “Noiseless Patient Spider” and Shakespeare’s Sonnet #73), he demonstrates the organic nature of both “fluid and solid forms,” his catsup and diamonds, but he knows it’s important to begin with a sense of line. In his second chapter, he explores free verse: end-stopped lines and run-on or enjambed lines, syllabics and spacing. In the third, he deals with accentual meter (the old iambic pentameters) and with scansion. In the fourth, he takes up other formal dimensions, such as diction and syntax, alliteration and assonance, and finally rhyme. And, finally, in his fifth chapter, he gets to stanzas and fixed form. I suppose most students would be impatient if he didn’t get there eventually. But in this whole section, his thesis — demonstrated and repeated — is that form must be organic. He calls it “the necessary nothing.” [For a text that is diametrically opposed to this stance, that begins with verse forms and stays with verse forms to the very end, see Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Travelled, Gothan Books, 2005. Get ready for amphibrachs, ottava rima, rubai, anacreontics, triolets, ghazal, and curtal and caudate sonnets!]

In the second place, Wallace attends to an aspect of the poet’s craft rarely addressed in conventional textbooks: What does a poet write about? The subject matter of poetry: what he calls “the essential something.” He wastes no time getting to his main point: “Poems can be about anything,” he says, and he illustrates his point with Louis Simpson’s “American Poetry”:

Whatever it is, it must have
A stomach that can digest
Rubber, coal, uranium, moons, poems.

Like the shark, it contains a shoe.
It must swim for miles through the desert
Uttering cries that are almost human.

In other words, in poetry, nothing is verboten. Except perhaps subjects that are too “poetic” and, hence, trite, banal, clichéd. Or abstract emotions.

“Emotions, in themselves, are not subject matter. Being in love, or sad, or lonely, or feeling good because it is spring, are common experiences. Poems that merely say those things, state these emotions directly, are unlikely to be very interesting . . . . The circumstances of the emotion, the scene or events out of which it comes, however, are subject matter. Don’t tell the emotion. Tell the causes of it, the circumstances.”

And so, without further ado, Wallace encourages his readers/students in the use of particulars, of specific, detailed images. He explores the connotations and implications of such particulars, even ambiguity. “As the details of [a poem] accumulate,” he insists, “they both give color to the narrative and help reveal the way the narrator feels about it.” Oh, he deals with universals within the particulars, with ideas in things. But always he maintains, “The sparks that make poems kindle are their particulars.”

And not intentional obscurity. “It is not difficult to be difficult,” he quotes Robert Francis as saying. Depth and breadth through connotation and implication, even ambiguities. But not obscurity.

In his section, Wallace goes ahead with a few particular types of subject matter: characters, metaphor, the nonrational (nonsense, surrealism, mysticism), feelings and self-discovery. He concludes with comments by Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams (poets who incidentally made their living and their lives as, respectively, an insurance agent and a doctor) on the function of poetry. As the doctor/poet says,

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

So Wallace begins where the poet must begin: with the line and the image; with language and experience. But, third, and finally, he does not neglect the “how-to” of poetry writing: the process. This is his tertium quid, what draws it all together. I think this is the hard part of teaching poetry writing, maybe even impossible, which I suppose is the reason that most textbooks on the subject never get around to it. He develops three phases of composition. My terms for these would be free-writing, drafting, and editing, but he uses his own helpful terminology: getting started (with stirrings, decisions, and tactics), revising I with “both ends of the pencil” (leaps and carpentry, trial-and-error, testing), and revising II, “seven-eighths of the iceberg” (tightening, shaping). In all these he is generous with practical advice and suggestions, not rules or requirements. But, once again, he begins where common sense must begin: with the impossibility of defining the task.

“When the magic happens, it is easy. When the muses are silent, it is impossible. Usually it is both at once. Ideas well up, words appear, images offer themselves, and the poem begins to materialize on the page. But this is not the whole poem, perfect, complete. Only a shadowy version appears at first: fragments, phrases, an unfinished rhythm — and a luminous sense of the poem-to-be. What Dylan Thomas calls the poet’s ‘craft or sullen art’ must finish the job.”

And he doesn’t even avoid the “business” of poetry writing either: getting organized, submitting manuscripts to magazines, copyright, the planning of public readings, book publication, even money and income tax deductions.

What is delightful about the book, besides Wallace’s down-to-earth approach, his clever chapter titles, and his distinct way of personalizing his approaches, is the collection of poems he uses in the text to illustrate his points. At the end of each chapter are questions and suggestions, and several additional “poems to consider.” Without the text, these poems would comprise an interesting and provocative anthology, models for the tyro — diverse and challenging.

And no reader should miss Wallace’s own poems (I count eleven of them), especially his tour de force, “Ungainly Things,” about the painter Toulouse Lautrec and his pet toad. Wallace uses this one to represent the “unpoetic” subject matter of poetry, and the use of specific detail to suggest a significant theme. I would include it in my 100 favorite poems of the 20th century.

I have a whole shelf of books on the writing of poetry and the teaching of poetry writing. All of them have winning points and distinctive ways to stimulate writers. But the only textbook/textbook among them, the only one I might consider using IF I were to teach a workshop myself is Wallace’s Writing Poems. It’s no be-all or end-all, but it’s about the best one could do attempting an impossible task.
  bfrank | Nov 19, 2007 |
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Nombre del autorRolTipo de autor¿Trabajo?Estado
Wallace, Robertautor principaltodas las edicionesconfirmado
Bar-Nadav, Hadaraautor principalalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Boisseau, Michelleautor principalalgunas edicionesconfirmado
Mann, Randallautor principalalgunas edicionesconfirmado
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Writing Poems, 5/e, offers well-balanced coverage of the creative process and technical aspects of writing poetry. Filled with practical advice for the beginning poet, the text is a thorough exposition of principles, a reliable handbook, and a convenient anthology that draws on poems. This market-leading text can be used at either the graduate or undergraduate level.

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