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Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin

Source: Valerie Fox, one of the authors
Paperback, 150 pages
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Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a short book that guides readers through a series of poetry forms from writing fake translations to writing poems from mathematical sequences.  The guide offers step-by-step instructions on how to write these kinds of poems and offers practical advice on how to avoid over-thinking each attempt.  Rather than over analyzing how to write a fake translation, the authors suggest that poets take a poem in a language they do not know at all and look for patterns in syntax or line breaks or to take a poem in a foreign language they have some familiarity with but don’t know well enough to translate it word-for-word.

“Teachers and workshop leaders can use the get-to-know-you cinquain, a lighter form of the cameo cinquain, as an introductory exercise on the first meeting of a poetry writing class.  Put the class members in pairs, and then tell them to interview and observe one another for material to put in the cinquain.”  (page 17)

While each of the poem styles is explained and the poems included are designated by style in the latter part of the book, readers may have found it more helpful if the poems followed the guidelines and explanations of each style, rather than be in a separate section after all of the styles are explained.  However, other writers might prefer this organization as it provides them with the simple guidance they need to begin their own work without relying upon concrete examples that could rein in their creativity.

Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin is a new kind of guide that strays from the traditional forms of poetry, like sonnet, and demonstrates the variety of poems that can be created that still involve structure.  From advice column prose poems to the I-hate poem and the one based on phrases that catch a researcher’s eye, the book offers exercises that will expand any poet’s scope.

About the Authors:

Valerie Fox’s most recent book is Bundles of Letters, Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press), written with Arlene Ang. Previous books of poems are The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and Amnesia, or, Ideas for Movies (Texture Press). Her work has appeared in many magazines, including Hanging Loose, The World, Feminist Studies, Siren, Phoebe, Watershed, sonaweb, and West Branch.

Poet, writer, and translator Lynn Levin is the author of four collections of poems: Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press, 2013); Fair Creatures of an Hour (Loonfeather Press, 2009), a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; Imaginarium (Loonfeather Press, 2005), a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and A Few Questions about Paradise (Loonfeather Press, 2000). She is co-author of a craft-of-poetry textbook, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (Texture Press, 2013). Birds on the Kiswar Tree, her translation of a collection of poems by the Peruvian Andean poet Odi Gonzales, will be published by 2Leaf Press in 2014.

Book 3 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.