Particular Order

Look at the contents page again, and you'll note that this book is arranged in a particular order. We begin with generating ideas for poems and end with the total poem, summarizing key elements in the making of publishable verse. In between those two chapters is the making of a poet, and that usually takes time . . . and patience.

This book has three sections. In "Journals and Genres," you'll learn how to generate and record ideas for poems. You'll also become familiar with the established genres of poetry, helping you conceive more ideas. In "Tools of the Trade," you'll learn how to use each element of craft to construct a poem. In "Formats and Forms," you'll become familiar with the various modes of expression.

Each chapter takes a no-frills approach. In other words, I am concerned with conveying information to you in a clear, concise style and not with the politics of poetry, choosing works from one school of thought or promoting specific types of verse. Poets cited here represent a broad spectrum of the literary scene, past and present. Verse from such writers as the Bronte sisters or Christina Rossetti continue to inspire those who have access to their works. The time has come to rediscover them. Moreover, contemporary poets from different schools have much to contribute to the process of composing good verse; thus, I was democratic in selecting their works because my intent is to inspire you to follow your own muse, not my footsteps (or footnotes).

Furthermore, at the end of each chapter, I have included "notebook" assignments based on three levels of achievement. (Notice that I did not say "difficulty.") In this era of wasted paper, I have attempted to write an "environmentally safe book" that you can continue to use throughout your development as a poet. Think of Level One, Level Two and Level Three in the notebook as go-arounds in a rodeo or as sets in a tennis match. Go through the book once and do all the Level One assignments, and you should have a new understanding of the art and craft of poetry — along with your first chapbook (about ten to fifteen poems). Go through it again at Level Two, and you can see how you have developed as a poet in the interim. You'll have another chapbook of verse. Go through it once more, and you will have experienced three phases of development and composed one more chapbook of verse. Combine the best poems from your first three chapbooks — and voila! — you will have your first full-blown poetry collection.

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