Friday, September 28, 2007

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver

Title: A Poetry Handbook
Author: Mary Oliver

ISBN: 0156724006

Publisher: Harcourt

Pages: 122

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets. However, this book is not about her poetry. According to the book cover, this book is a prose guide to understanding and writing poetry. Both beginner poets can read this book as well as those who love to read poetry.

She emphasise on reading a lot of poetry. One should read as much poetry as one can and as many poets. She asks us not to go overboard as we can never read every poet. Although we should try to read poetry from wide and varied eras. Learning to write poetry has to start from reading it.

Imitating is not a bad idea as no two poems can be similar. Each poet puts something of his or hers into it. Use of imagery, metaphors should be done in a rhythmic way and we should not go about those just for the heck of it.

She has taught us about different kinds of sounds, intonations, diction, tones and voice. Only when we master these, we can strive for writing better. Different forms of poetry have been explained taking poems by well-known poems. I especially liked ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ by William Carlos Williams.

Mary Oliver says that we need to revise and re-revise our work before we consider it done. It might take a few days. We might even reject it which is again, not a bad idea.

Workshops help us honing skills, teach us the ropes of poetry writing, critiques help us but after a while, it is us who has to come out on our own. We have to learn to be keen observers, to imbibe all that surrounds us and interpret it in our own way. We have t0 learn to be comfortable with ourselves. That is how we can write some good poetry.

'A Poetry Handbook' is a very interesting book even if you do not write a single word of poetry. It teaches to look at poetry in a different way, to find out meanings, which we might miss at first glance. It might not be a poetry book but it is about poetry and is poetic in a sense. I am glad I possess this book and I can leaf through it any time I want too. I know I would be learning something new every time I open it.