Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

"The Poet's Companion" by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (Norton, 1997)

Sections on various aspects of poetry writing ("Subjects for Writing", "The Poet's Craft", "The Writing Life"), with examples and exercises. Standard and mainstream, with sensible suggestions and many sample poems I've not seen before

Sample poems

I made a note of -

  • "Death, the last visit" (Marie Howe)
  • "Where you go when she sleeps" (T.R. Hummer)
  • "Archaeology (Katha Pollitt)


These caught my eye -

  • "Describe a pair of shoes in such a way that a reader will think of death. Do not mention death in the poem" (p.92)
  • "Write a number of sentences that seem to follow the conventions of a story, but don't tell a story. Use words like "once", "suddenly", "then", "finally", and whatever else you notice about how stories unfold; but make the "plot" nonsensical" (p.136)
  • "Using a poem you've already written,invent some arbitrary principle for arranging words on the field of the page and rearrange your own poem accordingly. Lyn Hejinian wrote a piece in which words beginning with "a" were placed at the left margin, words beginning with "b" started one space in, and so on" (p.136)


  • "A general principle of line breaks is that the word at the end of the line, and to a lesser extent at the beginning of it, stands out a bit more to the reader" (p.110)
  • "We read somewhere that short lines speed up the pace of a poem, but we feel the opposite" (p.112)
  • "It is tricky sometimes to know when you're crossing the line, from hypnotic incantation to ordinary monotony" (p.154)
  • "One advantage of the villanelle is that once you settle on two good, interesting lines that you think will bear repeating - and that also rhyme - you've got much of the poem written" (p.163)
  • "Beginning writers often sound remarkably alike" (p.116)
  • "If you don't have a modem - we're assuming you have a computer - you should seriously consider getting one" (p.206)


An appositive is a word or group of words to parallel an existing component - e.g. "My grandmother, Stella" (p.174). A verbal is a form of a verb without a subject - e.g. "My grandmother stands in the kitchen, washing the dishes" (p.179).

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