Some Book about Writing Poetry

Below is a list of some the books about writing poetry which I've found useful.

  • Essays:

These books are primarily collections of essays on various topics concerned with writing poetry.

(I place this group at the top of the page because these books are, by far, the ones I've found the most useful.

They make up my set of "Desert Island books".)

Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry : Stephen Dobyns, Palgrave 2003.

Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry : Stephen Dobyns, Palgrave 2011.

Two wonderful collections of essays. Can't say enough good about these.

(NOTE: The second, paperback edition of Best Words, Best Order contains two additional essays not in the hardback edition.)

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry: Jane Hirshfield, Harper Perennial, 1998.

Ten Window: How Great Poems Transform the World : Jane Hirshfield, Knopf, 2015.

Again, another astounding set of essays.

(Note: A chapter from Ten Windows is available as "Kindle Single" ebook

under the title The Heart of Haiku. Highly recommended)

The Eye of the Poet: SIx Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry : David Citinio, ed. Oxford University Press, 2001.

A fine collection essays on an assortment of topics by Billy Collins, Carol Muske, David Baker and Anne Townsend, Yusef Komunyakka, Maxine Kumin, and David Citino.

  • "Small/Intro" Books:

There are many short "introductory" books dealing with writing poetry.

Here are a couple I've found particularly helpful.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual : Ted Kooser, University of Nebraska, 2007.

To my mind, by far the best/most helpful book of this type.

A Poetry Handbook : Mary Oliver, Mariner Books, 1996.

Another very nice book of this type.

  • Miscellaneous and Special Topic Books:

Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry : Laurence Perrine, Thomas R. Arp, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

The Poem's Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody : Alfred Corn, Copper Canyon Classics, 2008.

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop : Steve Kowit, 2007.

These three books might be imagined as making up the syllabus for an ideal creative writing course on Poetry.

(If you look for them, you probably want to make sure your getting the most recent editions.)

Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Write : Robin Behn, Chase Twitchell eds, Quill, 1992.

An excellent set of writing exercise for an broad assortment of established poets.

Contemporary American Poetry: Behind the Scenes : Ryan Van Cleave ed, Longman, 2003.

A collection by an assortment of poets and their poems, discussing the works and suggesting associated writing exercise.

Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms: 85 Leading Poets Select and Comment on Their Poems : David Lehman, University of Michigan, 1999.

The subtitle says it all.

The Art of Voice: Poetic Principles and Practice : Tony Hoagland, Kay Cosgrove, Norton, 2019.

A fine little book on the role of "Voice" in poetry.

The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide : Robert Pinsky, Farrar Stauss and Giroux, 1998.

Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters : Robert Pinsky, W. W. Norton, 2013.

Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry : Dennis O'Driscoll ed, Copper Canyon Press, 2018.

A large, collection of quotations about various aspects and features of (primarily contemporary) poetry. Highly informative as well as very entertaining. (Originally published in Britain as The Bloodaxe Book of Poetry Quotations.)

  • Anthologies:

I've always thought that access to good, general-purpose anthologies are among the most valuable tools for anyone interested in learning to write poetry. In no small part because of their ability to introduce the reader to the broad range of types, styles and sources of this immense topic.

Here are some of my favorites.

The Norton Anthology of English Poetry

Of all the books on this page, I think this is the one book that anyone serious about learning how to write poetry in English is required to have.

On should, of course, own or have access to other appropriate books, but this is the place to start.

(I'll note that there have editions of The Anthology over the years. I still have --and regularly use-- my ancient 1st (yellow-cover) edition which I bought way back in my school days.)

How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry : Edward Hirsch, Harvest Books, 2000.

Hirsch's wonderful book is not actually an anthology.

However, in addition to containing an enormous amount of excellent, insightful information, it also introduces the reader to an enormous and broad range of poet's and their work.

Poet's Choice : Edward Hirsch, Mariner Books, 2007.

Likewise, this book is not, strictly speaking, and anthology.

However, it contains a large number of short chapters on various poets and categories of poetry.

Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry : Billy Collins ed, Random House, 2003.

180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day : Billy Collins ed, Random House, 2005.

Good Poems : Garrison Keillor ed, Penguin Books, 2003.

Good Poems for Hard Times : Garrison Keillor ed, Penguin Books, 2006.

Good Poems, American Places : Garrison Keillor, Penguin Books, 2012.

Very useful, and accessible, collections of (primarily modern) Poetry in English.

(Moreover, for anyone looking for general contemporary introduction to American/English poetry, it's hard to think of a better place to start than these deservedly popular anthologies.)

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