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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.

Mailbox Monday #253

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

In 2014, it was decided by the community to have the meme remain at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

These are the books that I received this past week:

1.  House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield came unexpectedly for review from Kaye Publicity.

Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen’s control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come….

2.  Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, which I purchased from Amazon with my gift card from Anna and her family.  I’m not sure what else I’ll be buying just yet, but this is perfect for the February read-a-long at War Through the Generations.

Robin “Birdy” Perry, a new army recruit from Harlem, isn’t quite sure why he joined the army, but he’s sure where he’s headed: Iraq. Birdy and the others in the Civilian Affairs Battalion are supposed to help secure and stabilize the country and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. Officially, the code name for their maneuvers is Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the young men and women in the CA unit have a simpler name for it: War.

3.  Three Souls by Janie Chang for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours in February/March 2014.

We have three souls, or so I’d been told. But only in death could I confirm this….

So begins the haunting and captivating tale, set in 1935 China, of the ghost of a young woman named Leiyin, who watches her own funeral from above and wonders why she is being denied entry to the afterlife. Beside her are three souls—stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun—who will guide her toward understanding. She must, they tell her, make amends.

As Leiyin delves back in time with the three souls to review her life, she sees the spoiled and privileged teenager she once was, a girl who is concerned with her own desires while China is fractured by civil war and social upheaval. At a party, she meets Hanchin, a captivating left-wing poet and translator, and instantly falls in love with him.

When Leiyin defies her father to pursue Hanchin, she learns the harsh truth—that she is powerless over her fate. Her punishment for disobedience leads to exile, an unwanted marriage, a pregnancy, and, ultimately, her death. And when she discovers what she must do to be released from limbo into the afterlife, Leiyin realizes that the time for making amends is shorter than she thought.

4.  Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets by Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin for review from the authors.

Valerie Fox and Lynn Levin’s “Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets” offers fourteen classroom- and workshop-tested writing prompts that will appeal to both beginning and experienced poets. Among the book’s inspiring and unusual ideas are the Fibonacci poem, advice-column poem, and spirit-of-names poem. The book lends itself to academic courses as well as poetry workshops in less formal settings, such as adult-ed, community-based, and “coffee-shop” classes. Individuals will find the book to be a helpful companion to their independent practice of poetry.

5.  When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka from the library sale for 50 cents.

On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.

In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.

6.  No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler from Anna.

Growing up on Guam in 1972, fifteen-year-old Kiko is beset by worries: He’s never kissed a girl, the popular guys get all the attention at school–but the worst part is the serious problems at home. His older brother is missing in Vietnam, his grandfather is losing it to dementia, and he just learned that his mother was raped by a Japanese soldier during World War II. It all comes together when he discovers an old man, a Japanese soldier, hiding in the jungle behind his house. It’s not the same man who raped his mother, but, in his rage, Kiko cares only about protecting his family and avenging his mom–no matter what it takes. And so, a shy, peaceable boy begins to plan a murder. But how far will Kiko go to prove to himself that he’s a man? Based on a true incident in history, No Surrender Soldier is the story of a boy grappling with ancient questions of courage and manhood before he can move on.

7.  Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon which we got at the library sale for 50 cents.

Nothing ever happens to Ralph. So every day when it’s time to write stories, Ralph thinks really hard. He stares at his paper. He stares at the ceiling. But he has no stories! With the help of his classmates, Ralph realizes that a great story can be about something very little . . . and that maybe he really does have some stories to tell. Debut author/illustrator Abby Hanlon’s endearing text and charming watercolor and colored pencil illustrations prove that writing can be fun! This story works nicely with Lucy Calkins’ Writer’s Workshop model of teaching.

8.  Ten Little Dinosaurs by Pattie Schnetzler, illustrated by Jim Harris for 50 cents at the library sale.

A pair of crazy eyeballs built into this boldly illustrated hardbound book jiggle and wiggle from page to page and dinosaur to dinosaur.  Both fun and informative, children and parents will be repeating this story’s catchy rhyme long after the first reading.  Reading Rainbow Book recipient Jim Harris provides his artistic excellence, humor, and stylistic integrity to this one-of-a-kind production.  A tremendously fun book for young dinosaur enthusiasts and an ideal counting book for younger ages as well.

9.  Color Your Own Matisse Paintings by Muncie Hendler for 25 cents and not colored at all from the library sale…an amazing find.

What did you receive?