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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ordinary Genius - A Guide for the Poet Within

Poet Kim Addonizio has a new book
out entitled "Ordinary Genius - A Guide for the Poet Within". (She co-authored "The Poet's Companion" with Dorianne Laux in 1997). You get your money's worth of lessons in its 300 pages. I was a little disappointed at the beginning , reading ideas like keeping a journal or writing a poem with the first line of someone else's poem, but the book got meatier with every chapter. "Ordinary Genius" is dense with inspiration, poem starters and exercises, as well as chapters like "Your Genius, Your Demons" that contain Addonizio's well thought-out philosophies on poets and poetry. She offers adoring insights on everyone from Shakespeare and Whitman to Cleveland's own George Bilgere.

She dares to have a chapter called "Love and Sex Poems" and somehow brings a fresh approach to those time-worn subjects. Addonizio is honest in her assessment of poets when she warns: "When you explore your own life in poetry, it's useful to remember that nobody really cares." And "If you want to be a poet the same way some people want to be a rock star without actually learning the guitar, playing scales or practicing - then you are free to fantasize."

Addonizio teaches the sonnet and pantoum among other poetic forms with ease. Other chapters include such topics as race, class, addictions and fairy tales. All the regulars are there as well: metaphor, imagery, revising, meter etc.

It's a comprehensive resource that I would recommend to a beginner or to any seasoned, war-wounded poet who is looking for his/her lost muse.


4 comments:

T.M. Göttl said...

"If you want to be a poet the same way some people want to be a rock star without actually learning the guitar, playing scales or practicing - then you are free to fantasize."


That's an awesome little bit there :)

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Yes! That's exactly the way I want to be a rock star! Does the book tell me how I can do it?

Jesus Crisis said...

"Ordinary Genius" is a perfect title for it. Last year when folks asked me to recommend a book to "help" them write better poetry, the first one I'd suggest was The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (W.W. Norton, 1997) - which has been used in courses across the country. Kim's recent Ordinary Genius is like a sequel or continuation - maybe even a replacement volume - yet it is much more. Good magicians rarely give away their secrets - but Kim, who's arguably been one of the most successful poets in America, gives hers away here. She shows how to perform poetic magic, partly by dispelling the illusion that it's all magic. To Kim, it's more journey than magic - and in Ordinary Genius, she shares the road map that got her where she is. It's the book I'd recommend today.

Josh Kleinberg said...

I like Kim Addonizio. I think I might try to buy this.

Cited...

The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau