The Poetry Home Repair Manual
Practical Advice for Beginning Poets
By Ted Kooser
(University of Nebraska Press, Hardcover, 9780803227699, 166pp.)
Publication Date: February 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Recently appointed as the new U. S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poets—aspiring or practicing—can use to hone their craft, perhaps into art. Using examples from his own rich literary oeuvre and from the work of a number of successful contemporary poets, the author schools us in the critical relationship between poet and reader, which is fundamental to what Kooser believes is poetry’s ultimate purpose: to reach other people and touch their hearts. Much more than a guidebook to writing and revising poems, this manual has all the comforts and merits of a long and enlightening conversation with a wise and patient old friend—a friend who is willing to share everything he’s learned about the art he’s spent a lifetime learning to execute so well.
Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (2004-2006), is a visiting professor in the English department of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a retired insurance executive. He is the author of ten collections of poetry, most recently the Pulitzer Prize-winning Delights & Shadows. His prose book, Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, won numerous awards, including the Barnes and Noble Discover Award for nonfiction finalist, and is available in a Bison Books edition.
"Ted Kooser could be mistaken for an average guy except for one thing: He writes poetry. That activity sets him apart from most of his neighbors, since they, like most Americans, have very little time for the stuff. A resident of Nebraska and the first U.S. poet laureate from the Great Plains, Mr. Kooser takes a broadly inclusive approach to promoting poetry; even so, he harbors no illusions about its becoming the national pastime anytime soon. Mr. Kooser captures this outsider-status neatly in The Poetry Home Repair Manual, his guide to aspiring poets and aspiring readers of verse. . . . [P]oetry is a tough sell these days. . . . But that only makes a smart and readable poetry guide all the more welcome, and needed."—David Yezzi, The Wall Street Journal
"With The Poetry Home Repair Manual, he turns to teaching us what poetry is about, Kooser-style. Much of it appeals. His attitude that 'poetry is communication' is refreshing in an era when so many poets seem to be babbling to themselves, giving us pages ripped out of their narcissistic diaries. . . . As might be expected, Kooser's advice is practical, down-home. . . . Kooser is a fine free-verser, and the biases of his book show it."—Cynthia Haven, San Francisco Chronicle
"When Nebraska's Ted Kooser was named poet laureate for the Library of Congress last fall, certain quarters of the literary establishment responded with a resounding, Huh? Poets on both coasts scratched their heads, admitting they had never heard of Kooser. It is to be hoped they now have. With Kooser, the middle of the country and Nebraska have triumphed over the self-concerned coasts. Many of his poems involve closely observed Midwestern scenes, their artistry a way of surviving and even enjoying the world. Though Kooser eschews the egotism of many contemporary poets, he is as distinctive a voice as any now at work, a master of metaphor and the short poem. . . . Kooser's book is quietly witty and iconoclastic, with valuable advice. . . . He presents a whole stance toward writing in the context of living one's life. The Poetry Home Repair Manual is brief, lucid, and often remarkably wise."—David Mason, The Weekly Standard
"Comings and goings, what is there and what isn't, and the possibilities drawn from personal exploration shape the landscapes in Kooser's poetry. This is not an extended, complex, or experimental kind of writing, but a poetry that rings true, allowing the human sound of being to exist on the page. Its brevity is a launching pad for a simplicity that contains mortal lessons whose language changes the reader. This sense of transformation could be the theme of The Poetry Home Repair Manual. It is not a how-to book or a grand manifesto about poetic tradition. This lively and trim book is Kooser's gift to readers and writers of poetry. . . . The value of this book lies in the way Kooser encourages writers to be real about their expectations, their work, and the fact that the world is not waiting for their poems. . . . Kooser is a poet whose triumphs and tragedies become our own, not to shed their weight upon us but to allow us to revel in the process by which the imagination and the mysteries of poetry make our humanity everyone's horizon."—Bloomsbury Review
The work of Kooser, America's new poet laureate, will be receiving more attention now, attention that is amply deserved"—Booklist
"Get your hands on this book. Ask your librarian for it—or better yet buy it, along with a highlighter. You're going to need the latter because this book is brimming with good counsel."—John Eberhart, Kansas City Star
"A beginning poet would be well advised to read and take to heart the plain-spoken wisdom offered in . . . Ted Kooser's poetry writing 'manual.' . . . By poking fun at himself, he encourages the fledgling poet to see past the pose of being a poet to the devotion to craft and love of poetry that this book celebrates."—Judith Sornberger, Great Plains Quarterly
"No other poet seems better suited to represent the United States as its Laureate in this era than Ted Kooser, and The Poetry Home Repair Manual should enhance his grip on our slumbering Republic."—Larry Woiwode, Poet Laureate of North Dakota, in North Dakota Quarterly
"[Kooser] is a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."—James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress
-James H. Billington
"Ted Kooser demonstrates that you can be both accessible and truly excellent. . . . He's the sort of poet people love to read.”—Dana Gioia, poet and author of Can Poetry Matter?
“It’s a how-to book for beginning poets and a good read for anybody interested in improving their writing. Kooser is able to instruct with the same clarity (and humor) in which he writes, making his advice easy to understand and apply.”—Jeremy Schnitker, The Reader
“Kooser’s Poetry Home Repair Manual is marked by impeccable clarity and focus of dedication, and the absolute integrity that characterize Kooser’s other works; I should also add the important qualities of generous and lively good humor and gentle, thoughtful persuasion. During more than forty years of teaching college students, I examined hundreds of books designed to help young writers and readers, and I am pleased to report that this book is by far the best of them all.”—George Garrett, the Poet Laureate of Virginia
“A practical common-sense guide to both reading and writing poetry. . . . It underscores the interdependence of reading and writing, a fact of life so often not fully understood by tyro poets.”—George Fetherling, The New Brunswick Reader
“Offers friendly and practical advice not only on how to write poetry, but how to think like a poet.”—College & Research Libraries News
“This handbook is one of the best. It is organized and helpful in both practical and fundamental ways, and offers excellent models for exercises. Most important, this book is friendly. Kooser’s voice is that of a wise and comfortable mentor who assumes that the reader has been working with him for a long time, and has stopped into his workshop to solve a small but thorny problem of language. He will help.”—Anne-Marie Oomen, ForeWord
“In his own poetry he renders his subjects sensually while projecting an engaging poetic presence. In The Poetry Home Repair Manual he shares his writerly wisdom; any poet, beginner or professional, will come away from reading it with some useful reminder of how to make his or her poems better.”—About.com
“I decided I had to have a copy for my shelf of treasured books on writing and invested the money in buying a copy. And it is an investment. I know I’ll be re-reading this book and referring to it for years to come.”—Poetry Renewal
“For both wannabe poets and friends as critics.”—Victoria Advocate