Explosions and Recapitulations

Viewing poetry as a gift, Edward Hirsch writes in his book “How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry:  “The question poses itself as how to keep alive an interior life in the face of our own and the world’s corruptions.” As an example of a solution, he presents Charles Baudelaire‘s prose … Continue reading

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For YOUR Eyes Only

Joanne Rocklin’s young adult novel, For YOUR Eyes Only is in the form of a young teen’s notebook. You can read an excerpt at Amazon.com to see how effectively the writing strategy evokes the main character and the world in which she is immersed. Writing for the Children’s Book Insider, Joanne Rocklin provided tips for … Continue reading

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Truth & Beauty: Ann Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy

Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face, and five-time novelist Ann Patchett were acquaintances at Sarah Lawrence, where Lucy was legendary as a poet and inspired her classmates with her courage in facing and healing from constant surgeries to restore her face, scared and disfigured from cancer surgery when she was nine. When they … Continue reading

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On The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World by Susan Rich

From The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World Leaving Sarajevo by Susan Rich The bus driver stops to pick plums from an abandoned late summer garden, the pale blue carrier bags pulled from his bed where he sleeps underneath the bus. All night we watch movies, drink beer in the dark, cross borders where Bosnians, … Continue reading

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It’s Not How You Write, It’s How You Re-Write

This week we are very lucky to have an article about revision by poet Susan Rich, described by Naomi Shihab Nye on the back cover of her first prize-winning collection The Cartographer’sTongue as “a caring citizen of every heart-land.” Not only that, she is a brave and dedicated teacher: her article is filled with examples … Continue reading

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What is Poetry?

When I walked into an independent bookstore recently and saw Apprentice of the Flower Poet Z. on a table of new fiction paperbacks, I picked it up because of its title and then read the first of the back cover blurbs: “A splendid satire of literary life…Annabelle is the perfect naïf, the babe in the … Continue reading

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Prompts Inspired By In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal, edited by Kitchen & Jones

Janice Eidus, author and Writing It Real correspondent, currently teaches creative nonfiction for the University of New Orleans and uses writing prompts with her students based on the essay anthology In Brief, a book I discussed in my December 16, 2004 article. This week, she shares those prompts with us, and I offer a demonstration … Continue reading

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In Short – An Inspiring Essay Anthology Edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones

“It is a matter of proportion,” Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones say about the criteria they used for selecting essays for an anthology entitled In Short and published by W. W. Norton in 1996.  Noticing that nonfiction writers they admired were frequently writing very short prose, they realized that what mattered in an essay … Continue reading

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A Story of Two Fathers and the Daughter Who Loves Food Too Much

Reading popular writing guru Natalie Goldberg’s newly published memoir, The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth, Harper San Francisco, 2004, I am drawn to the speaker’s many descriptions of the two influential male figures in her life, her bartender father and her now deceased Zen teacher. When she writes … Continue reading

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Sandi C. Shore’s Secrets to Standup Success

Most teachers who understand writing as a process say that the first step is to play with words.  They provide exercises for helping students jump and run and climb on the word playground.  But what if your teacher is a stand-up comic?  Well, then, she helps you define your personality, sharpen your comedic style, and … Continue reading

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Coaxing Imaginative Awareness

Braided Creek:  A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser (Copper Canyon Press) offers wisdom, sensitive observation and love of essence.  On the book’s back cover, the editors have written that one of the poets said, “This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.” According to my Webster’s, a … Continue reading

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Writing for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day approaching, I once again reread two poems by Stanley Plumly that I admire. In “Say Summer/For My Mother,” Plumly writes: I could give it back to you, perhaps in a season, say summer.  I could give you leaf back, green grass, sky full of rain… And in “Two Moments, for My Mother,” … Continue reading

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A Review of Tell It Slant

Two professors from the Creative Writing Program at Western Washington State University in Bellingham, Washington have put together Tell It Slant, an enlightening, comprehensive and very satisfying text on writing and shaping creative nonfiction.  The book includes a 237-page bonus anthology of 32 essays by notable writers Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, … Continue reading

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Reporting the Earthquakes in Life

In Daughter’s Keeper, a novel by Ayelet Waldman, the main characters are Elaine and her daughter Olivia. The novel succeeds as a portrayal of love redeemed between a mother and daughter against the backdrop of the United States’ drug enforcement system. Currently a Berkeley resident, author Ayelet Waldman is a graduate of Harvard Law School … Continue reading

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Useful Writing Strategies from The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

Not scheduled for release until January 2004, The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, an epistolary novel by Elisabeth Robinson, has already received excellent reviews.  If you are developing a wish list for holiday gifts, I recommend putting this book on that list.  It is a pleasurable read, by turns hilarious and poignant, … Continue reading

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A Look at Four Writers Who Inhabit the Moment

Lately, I’ve read a book of Buddhist wisdom by Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, poetry by the Northwest’s James Bertolino, essays by the Northeast’s Philip Simmons and memoirs by the Southwest’s Laurence Shames and by Timothy Doyle, who has lived in India for years.  In each of the author’s performances, I am reminded that when … Continue reading

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Embedded in The Dogs of Babel

On my vacation this year along the shores of Lake Michigan, I was reading the last chapters of an advance reading copy of The Dogs of Babel on the day it appeared in bookstores across America.  Little, Brown and Company introduced the book at this year’s Book Expo America to stimulate interest among booksellers, and … Continue reading

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Must Reads for Essay Writers

“Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt in The New Yorker Magazine, July 22, 2002: Click for more information on the columnist  “Learning to Drive” is an engrossing and humble piece of writing from a leftist writer of renown, who refused to shy away from using very personal material. Her essay narrates her driving lessons with … Continue reading

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