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The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,014 ratings  ·  138 reviews
Recently appointed as the new U. S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser has been writing and publishing poetry for more than forty years. In the pages of The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Kooser brings those decades of experience to bear. Here are tools and insights, the instructions (and warnings against instructions) that poets—aspiring or practicing—can use to hone their craft, perh ...more
Hardcover, 166 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 2005)
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Let's say a head weighs so much because it may contain, among thousands of other images, the Grand Canyon or the rolling sea off Cape Hatteras. Tons of colorful stone, or slate-gray crashing water.
Think how much just those two vistas weigh, complete with the heavy tourist traffic, thousands of screaming gulls, and the frightened look your little daughter had on her face when they brought her first lobster and set it before her, claws and all. The big bang theory of the origin
A couple months ago I was struck with an urge to read, write, and enjoy poetry. It was a convergence, I'm sure, of a variety of outside influences. I'd heard, for example, that writing poetry could infuse a person with almost magical writing power. Likewise, that reading it could open one's third eye and allow the seeing of truths, telepathic conversations with John Keats, psychokinesis, telekineses, force lightning, and mindsex.

So I said, "why not?" and set about writing one poem every day (alo
Ted Kooser is a nice man. I knew from the minute I saw his photo on the back cover- an avuncular figure in a cable-knit sweater smiling blithely into the camera, a mug of something in his hand- that this would not be elitist, it would not be condescending and it would not be highflown.

This is a book for the intimidated and the uncertain, for the simple and the popular. There are the sorts of people who like poetry as poetry; not because it seems like they ought to like it, or because it fits int
This slim little treatise offers some of the most practical, applicable advice on writing that I've come across yet. Kooser puts less emphasis on technical aspects of form and rhythm in favor of solid poetry that's written to be read, pointing out that the music is a less conscious process. It's friendly and encouraging - I found myself nodding in recognition of mistakes I make, proud to see things I already work on, and reaching for the highlighter often.
Sian Griffiths
This book was highly recommended to me, but I have to say, I found it disappointing. The definition of poetry is extremely limited and limiting, and the advice for writing poetry is thus limited by that narrow definition.

I've been debating with myself whether these limits are helpful to new writers (why overwhelm? why confuse?), but I just can't believe the narrowness is necessary. I've been reading Bob Hicok's WORDS FOR EMPTY AND WORDS FOR FULL alongside this one, and Hicok's book is staggerin
Kate Vogl
Loving this line, I'm paraphrasing his quote from John Fowles: You don't get the audience from preaching and philosophizing, but from the baser tricks of the trade - from wooing the reader into the palm of your hand.

A great book for writing basics, whether in prose or in poetry. Good for me to see the poetry equivalent to the prose I've been teaching my students - and his added insights on controlling metaphors and similes. In this world where we rush to crank out a novel in one month, good to
This little powerhouse of a how-to has some outdated publishing and submission information in it--written before the explosion of Internet publishing and, but for craft advice, it can't be beat. Accessible for beginners and good reminders for those more advanced writers, Ted Kooser has given the world of poetry a generous gift. If you've ever had questions on how to break your lines, whether to use a metaphor or simile in a particular context and how and where to sprinkle those adje ...more
Bill Keefe
My third book looking to the what and how of writing and reading poetry (I guess it's actually my fourth but the first one sucked, so I already forgot it.).

I'm not sure this is better than Mary Oliver's or Glyn Maxwell's; I'm really not sure. I am sure that I found this book thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting, interesting, readable, enlightening and educational. I know, Mr. Kooser, "educational" is such a dry, technical word, but this book educated me, in the best, warmest most personal way.

Mr. Koo
Oleg Kagan
Kooser's guide did not change my life, it did however encapsulate pretty much everything I tell beginning poets in a neat, understandable way supplemented by mostly excellent examples. Also, Kooser's voice is gentle and wise and the author picture has him in a big sweater with a cuppa something. Maybe the latter doesn't matter so much but if I'm giving a book five stars, I try to take everything into account.
So, if Immersed in Verse is the funny childish love of poetry and awesome inspiration bit--then this baby is the "we're all-grown up, and now have settled down to work on art . . . but we haven't quite given up our sense of humor" bit.

The advice is absolutely indispensable, and ought to be required reading for every aspiring poet. It's also a delight to read--just delicious.

Please, oh please, read.
Debbie Hill
More than practical advice for beginning poets, this is a book that all poets should have on their bookshelves. I especially enjoyed the chapter on "Fine-Tuning Metaphors and Similes" and the examples the author used to demonstrate the different techniques in writing. Each chapter includes helpful lessons as well as strong poems.
Feb 19, 2009 Courtney rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all writer
Recommended to Courtney by: Mark Letcher
Kooser conducts a straightforward discussion of the role of poetry and devices beginners can employ to get started writing. Although this text is an informative, easy read, it's geared more towards the individual rather than a classroom setting. He doesn't attempt to 'teach' poetic styles; he presents poetic advice.
Heather Moss
Aug 31, 2009 Heather Moss rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of mainstream poetry who also want to write it
I thought there would be more about revision in this book, thanks to the title. Ted Kooser and I have quite different sensibilities about poetry, but that's okay -- I still think book has some sound advice for beginning poets. He also seems like a nice man, very grandfatherly in his writing style.
This is a favorite. The book is "as advertised" in the title, but is also much more in that it explains a lot about how poetry works, without taking away any of the magic. Another great book along these lines is How to Read a Poem and Start Poetry Circle by Molly Peacock.
N.L. Riviezzo
Of the variety of books on writing poetry that I have read, this is one of the most intriguing. It is an excellent source for beginners but has some thought-provoking information for those trying to fine-tune their poetic craft.
I use this to teach beginning creative writers. Works like a champ.

I don't agree with everything he says, and there's some stuff I really wish he'd say. But overall he does the job proud.

Kristin Jackson
This is the best book I have found on poetry writing. There is no meaningless dribble, no painfully overstated professor talk. It helped me become a much better writer.
Barbara Gabriel
Clear ideas on the craft of poetry revision and help for the beginning serious poet as well. Thoroughly enjoyed the voice and ideas.
Deb Lund
I've got loads of poetry manuals on my shelf, but this one? It's got voice like a well-done work of fiction.
Wonderful. The subtitle of this book reads "Practical Advice for Beginning Poets" but I think it shoudl read 'for all poets.' This is a wonderful compendium of good common sense advice, full of ways at looking at language, ways of expressing yourself, writing exercises, prompts and tips. It's a no-nonsense look at a very ephemeral thing. But that is no surprise coming from Ted Kooser. He's as down to earth as they come.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in reading or writing poetry. It wil
Joe Haack
I borrowed this book from the local library, but I will likely buy it. What did CS Lewis say? "Don't waste your time on a book you wouldn't read again and again?" Or, something like that.

This book, at bottom, is an apologetic for Kooser's own philosophy of poetry. One I'll bet you'll agree with: the writer should serve the reader, love them even. He quotes Seamus Heaney to this effect - "The aim of the poet and the poetry is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual work into
Bob MacNeal
Ted Kooser doesn't defy his mid-western sensibilities by serving us ego-inflated puffery or bombastic proclamations; rather he offers pragmatic guideposts to people who might tend to write shitty self-absorbed poems. I'm not a poet, rather I'm one who follows a daily exercise of writing. Kooser rails on the overuse of narrative in the poetic form which I took under advisement, but then promptly wrote a narrative-style poem where the line breaks and spacing gave my narrative the distinctive look ...more
Since I did not get into a very elite nursing grad school program, my next goal was a poetry class, and since Denver apparently does not have any right now that are for non degree students, I turned to a former Poet Laureate who impresses me with his solid, midwestern, genuine advice about poetry. One of his more powerful poems that resonates with me:


Today you would be ninety-seven
if you had lived, and we would all be
miserable, you and your children,
driving from clinic to clinic,
an an
Aug 30, 2009 martha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring poets, all stripes
Shelves: nonfiction, poetry, 2009
I really loved this book, with just a few small reservations. For the most part it was fantastic: casual and funny, with useful, straightforward advice about poetry writing. I loved how he used examples of specific poems, then carefully walked you through how they did what they did, and why that worked. I got some great ideas, and even learned a new poetic meter (syllabic!) at this late date.

The parts I found less useful were where he got overly prescriptivist about writing only the Ted Kooser A
Chris LaMay-West
I actually got this book a few years ago, intending to use it to help me work on and revise a collection of my poems. For various reasons (bottoming out, rehab, recovery, etc.), I wasn't in a space to follow through at that time, or for some time after. Last year, I once again got motivated to put together a poetry collection, so I dusted off this book and cracked it open. I'm glad I did! Ted Kooser, former Poet Laureate, has written a wise, personable and above all, practical guide to the nuts ...more
Kooser's book is so welcoming from the warm tone to the straight-forward, unassuming language, and the pragmatic advice. Kooser writes, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual advocates for poems that can be read and understood without professional interpretation. My teacher and mentor, Karl Shapiro, once pointed out that the poetry of the twentieth century was the first poetry that had to be taught. He might have said that had to be explained. I believe with all my heart that it's a virtue to show our a ...more
Cathy Douglas
This book, intended for beginning poets, is part how-to and part commentary. But it's also a manifesto. Ted Kooser insists that poetry is communication, yes, even communication with other people. I suspect there are lots of poets who either hate this book or wouldn't give it the time of day. I'll let Kooser speak for himself:

"I've been reading poems for many years and should be altogether comfortable with them, but still, when I turn a page in a literary journal and come upon a poem, I jump back
As only a reader of poetry, I can appreciate this book from the readers' point of view. It contains much of the advices and suggestions for making poetry through exemplary pieces. I have enjoyed Ted Kooser's poetry of simple folksy images yet often contain poignant and unique flash of insight. This particularly book is a generous and gentle book for other people who want to write poetry from a very good poet himself. This is a worthy read.
Michelle Barker
Highly recommended for anyone who writes, or wants to write, poetry. Ted Kooser has written a book that is so helpful (and even entertaining) I had a hard time putting it down. Seriously. The analogies he uses will stick with me: how shrink-wrapped ham cubes can teach you about poetic form, why the clatter of sunglasses on a glass-bottomed boat should give you shivers. He also discusses how metaphor and simile create such different effects, the critical importance of 'le mot juste' in a poem, an ...more
Terrific book from Pulitzer winning poet Ted Kooser in which he really breaks down key elements of how to write a poem that you can't find anywhere else. How to craft a title, when to choose metaphor over simile, promising topics for poems, poetry as an invitation to your reader, and so on. Revolutionized the way I look at my poetry attempts!
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Ted Kooser lives in rural Nebraska with his wife, Kathleen, and three dogs. He is one of America's most noted poets, having served two terms as U. S. Poet Laureate and, during the second term, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection, DELIGHTS & SHADOWS. He is a retired life insurance executive who now teaches part-time at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The school board ...more
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“Considering the ways in which so many of us waste our time, what would be wrong with a world in which everybody were writing poems? After all, there’s a significant service to humanity in spending time doing no harm. While you’re writing your poem, there’s one less scoundrel in the world. And I’d like a world, wouldn’t you, in which people actually took time to think about what they were saying? It would be, I’m certain, a more peaceful, more reasonable place. I don’t think there could ever be too many poets. By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say ‘We loved the earth but could not stay.” 27 likes
“At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood in the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.”
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