Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to Write a Poem by Nancy Bogen

How to Write Poetry by Nancy Bogen has been on my bookshelf so long I can barely remember when I picked it up. It is very thorough in many ways, most of the content focusing on traditional form poetry, scansion, etc. Because most of the scanning exercises do not have answers, unless you have the time to look up every word in a sonnet, you probably will either skip the exercises altogether or never know whether you did them well. The exercises where you are encouraged to write are more often collaborative as in, “write a version and share your version with someone else” and for all Bogen’s saying that the book can be used by someone who is not in a classroom or group so many of the exercises were designed for two or more people I have to wonder what book she thought she was writing or if someone else is responsible for the exercises. And if you get confused reading that it is best not to write a metaphor because they should come naturally but then want to know how you are supposed to not force yourself to write one when there are a series of exercises that tell you to do exactly this, often without a poem in which to even contextualize the metaphor, your guess is as good as mine. I was confused too. And I still don’t know how anyone is supposed to write a metaphor without any context. I agree that it is best for a metaphor to come naturally from the content so I didn’t find this section very interesting. Overall, the book was a disappointment and probably best read in a classroom or workshop environment. Otherwise, I’d say this is not the best choice and reading contemporary poetry will probably teach you as much as this book attempts to do.
Note: The image is from the third edition which is apparently co-authored with Laurie Rozakis and may very well correct many of the issues I had with the book.

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