Review of Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop

crafty poet coverDiane Lockward has published a writing conference masquerading as a book. The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop is a comprehensive collection of craft tips with

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accompanying poem and writing prompts for immediate application of what was presented in the craft tip. With 27 craft tips and and fifty-six poets contributing, this is a treasure trove of inspiration, challenge, and tutoring in the craft of creating poetry.

From an individual trying to improve through self-guidance and exploration, community workshops and writing groups, to class room instructors – poets and emerging writers alike will find worth and value in use of Lockward’s book as a resource or text.

The book is divided into ten poetic concepts covering the gamut from what generates material to revision  to recycling from the dregs and overcoming writers block. There is discussion of diction, sound, voice, imagery, layers, syntax, and lines. The Crafty Poet assumes a basic understanding of poetics, and is not for the beginner. A well-motivated and confident beginner would find this book useful though as an impetus for self-instruction. Unfamiliar terms and assumed knowledge serve as bread crumbs for deeper exploration into the craft of poetry creation. For the intended audience of the knowledgeable reader, each chapter is a delight on specific practice, review, or re-introduction on a poetic concept and application of craft.

An added jewel in each section is “The Poet on the Poem” which puts the reader in the room with Diane Lockward discussing with a poet a specific poem by that poet. Diane’s observances and the poet’s discussion loosely reflects the craft discussion for the preceding section in the book. More so, the reader hears from the poet’s own perspective what was driving that poem, what influences or experiences impact not only the poem but the work of the poet.

Sample poems (of which there are forty-five) are suggestions not end all be all answers for the prompts provided. This reflects the prompt as an entry not a destination in the creation of a poem. Consider the prompt for a particular craft tip as strategy for implementation not instructions for a particular “product” of poetic creation.

There are many formal programs for poetic instruction from community education, community college, graduate programs and writing conference workshops and retreats that immerse one into the writing community. Diane Lockward has gathered together a cornucopia of information that will educate, motivate, and inspire poets seeking rejuvenation, review and perhaps reminder on poetic concepts as well as provide the poetry student with digestible bites of craft education in a format that goes with the writer instead of the writer going to the class room or conference.

The Crafty Poet, A Portable Workshop is THE book, if I knew I’d be somewhere in isolation from the writing community, unable for whatever reason to take a class or attend a conference, stuck on a deserted island or a long train, plane, or other journey – this is the book I’d keep with me so I’d learn, be inspired and most importantly hone my own tools of the craft. You don’t need an environment of isolation to benefit from this book though – this is a resource the individual or a writing group will return to again and again.


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