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Poetry Book Review:

The Poetry Home Repair Manual

by Ted Kooser

poetry home repair manualThere is perhaps no more accessible a poet than Ted Kooser, former U.S. poet laureate. Kooser has certainly written an accessible book of poetics in his aptly titled The Poetry Home Repair Manual.

The title itself is curious because it smacks of a certain wry humor and itself appeals to the type of audience that Kooser's poetry is known to appeal to. That is, rural and small town poets who identify with Kooser's own farming roots. Ted Kooser is heartland America.

That's either a big plus or a huge minus, depending on your perspective. Me, I don't care where he's from if he writes a good book. And The Poetry Home Repair Manual is a good book.

Kooser is able to write about the art of poetry in simple terms without dumbing it down. He writes to his audience, not at them. Never does he condescend or patronize. His advice is always sage and practical and never grandiose. But I can't say that I always agree with it.

I do agree, though, that his advice is mostly good advice for most people who want to write poetry. If you come from an avant-garde tradition then you will likely not enjoy the book. If you consider yourself the next great urban garage poet then it will likely not be your cup of pickle juice either. But if you reside in the house of poetics that most up-and-coming poets today live in, the school of light, accessible, slice-of-life then The Poetry Home Repair Manual can help you improve your craft.

I love the fact that Kooser handles difficult topics like rejection with ease. His anecdotes are always helpful and shed light on his ideas very well. And he writes about topics that most books on poetry writing don't touch on, like how to write about feelings and making that first impression with the reader (a great chapter, by the way). Some of his topics seem so intuitive that you wonder why other books on poetry writing don't discuss them.

I said I don't always agree with his advice, but I do agree with it mostly, though I believe he spent way too long talking about metaphors. That chapter could have been cut in half and nothing would have been lost.

Kooser's handling of the great poetic sin of sentimentality was very well done. I've never read a book on poetics that handled the topic so even-handedly. I got the impression that Kooser may have met with that accusation himself quite a bit and it was refreshing that he gives poets permission to risk sentimentality as long as they don't go overboard. I also appreciate that Kooser shares some of his failures as a poet, including his being sucked in by the vanity presses. Even more, I like that he draws from contemporary examples of poetry to make his points and most of the time he uses the poetry of others.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual is a book that every poet, or anyone who wants to be a poet, should read. Kooser obviously wrote the book for beginning poets and I highly recommend it for beginners. More advanced poets won't get much out of it. If you want an easy read with practical advice then there is no better book in the world more poised to give it than The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser.

Order your copy of

The Poetry Home Repair Manual
by Ted Kooser


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