One of the first steps for any aspiring poet is to read some poetry, and then read some more, but there are so many books of poetry to choose from it’d be hard to make a narrowed list. This list is going to take you to the next step and give you some excellent titles about t the craft of poetry, so once you’ve emerged from your reading cave, you can start writing!
1. The Fourth Dimension of a Poem and Other Essays by M.H. Abrams
This is a book to help you with the poetry you’ve read and continue to read. Abrams challenges you to think about poetry differently, and challenges you to keep coming back to poetry with an ever open mind.
2. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser
Sometimes instructions on something as subjective as art can feel patronizing, or like they’re limiting your creativity. In this craft book, Kooser warns against taking instructions too seriously, and provides you with tools rather than a series of how to lists.
3. The Making of a Poem: The Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms edited by Eavan Boland and Mark Strand
Almost every hobby has some kind of “dictionary” for its varied methods. Poetry has many different forms, and this Norton anthology is for you if you’re an adventurous poet who wants to try everything from the haiku to the sestina.
4. The Prosody Handbook: A Guide to Poetic Form by Robert Beum and Karl Shapiro
“Versification” is the word Beum and Shapiro use as they describe the various elements of poems written in form, but don’t worry, there’s a chapter titled “Free Verse” if writing a sonnet is not on your to do list.
5. In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit
Kowit offers both a study of different kinds of poetry, and writing exercises to get you used to using different elements and styles at the end of each chapter.
6. Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio
Addonizio encourages her readers to draw on their personal experiences to write rich, moving poetry.
7. Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry by Stephen Dobyns
Dobyns explores not only the poetry of famous poets in this book, but the process of these poets, such as Pablo Neruda and William Butler Yeats. Recognizing the challenging work of poetry, Dobyns inspires his readers to work hard for the craft, just like the greats.
8. The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell
This book is heavy with writing exercises, and is probably the perfect book for those days when writer’s block just won’t leave.
9. The Daily Poet: Day by Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano
Many aspiring poets hope to write every day, but it can be hard to get going on your own. This book offers an organized way to tackle the daily hardships with prompts for every day of the calendar year!
10. Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield
This final book on the list is to keep you writing. It can be easy to fall out of something that doesn’t feel necessary to everyday life. Poetry doesn’t keep the household running, but it is an important part of our lives. By reading through powerful poems by well-known poets around the world, Hirshfield will inspire you to keep writing, even when it’s hard.
This list gives you a great place to start, but there are plenty of other great books out there. Go and explore, and most importantly, get writing, because writing is a craft that can only be honed if you practice it.
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