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The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,222 Ratings  ·  164 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
Paperback, 170 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Bison Books (first published 2005)
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Mar 06, 2015 rahul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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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
May 21, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2008 Lara rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, poetry-poetics, 2008
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.
Sep 16, 2011 Nathan rated it liked it
Shelves: franklin-library
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
Mar 29, 2016 Dianne rated it it was amazing
I LOVE Ted Kooser. I love what he is NOT- a pretentious snob. I LOVE what he IS, an individual who writes from the heart, that he has a wisdom that is plain spoken, that his style is accomplished, subtle and articulate, and that his poetry is accessible. You do not have to be scholarly to appreciate his work.

Now, about this book-Kooser always advises the poet to pay attention to his/her audience. It is his belief that poetry is a form of communication with the reader. He straight out says that i
Nov 04, 2010 Telaina rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Ki Goff
Jun 13, 2012 Ki Goff rated it it was amazing
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.
Oleg Kagan
Jan 22, 2011 Oleg Kagan rated it it was amazing
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.
Debbie Hill
Jun 20, 2015 Debbie Hill rated it really liked it
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 really liked it
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.
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.
Feb 14, 2009 Michal rated it it was amazing
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.
Barbara Gabriel
Jul 25, 2016 Barbara Gabriel rated it liked it
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
Jul 09, 2010 Deb Lund rated it really liked it
I've got loads of poetry manuals on my shelf, but this one? It's got voice like a well-done work of fiction.
Kristin Jackson
Oct 26, 2010 Kristin Jackson rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 14, 2009 Deja rated it really liked it
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.

Bill Keefe
Mar 09, 2015 Bill Keefe rated it it was amazing
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
Sian Griffiths
May 21, 2015 Sian Griffiths rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing-craft
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
Timons Esaias
Jan 18, 2016 Timons Esaias rated it it was amazing
I've selected The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by previous U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, as the "textbook" for my Fall poetry writing class twice now. I looked at a number of standard college texts on the subject (which tend to cost over a hundred dollars for a trade paperback), and I found them to be exhaustive, exhausting, and likely to be intimidating to undergraduates. And therefore likely to be unread.

To take an example, the Wallace & Boisseau textbook spends the first five chapters, ove
Jan 05, 2016 Neil rated it really liked it
A short book. Well structured with short chapters. An easy going, friendly, conversational style: likeable imho. Wisely unambitious in the sense that Kooser doesn't make any attempt to be too comprehensive. Instead he opts to focus on a dozen important considerations - he could, I imagine, write a sequel. I think he does a good job by supporting his thoughts with examples taken from his own and other poet's work. He spends time fully fleshing out each of the perspectives he has chosen as a topic ...more
Joe Haack
Aug 09, 2011 Joe Haack rated it it was amazing
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
Kate Vogl
Dec 16, 2009 Kate Vogl rated it it was amazing
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
May 12, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2016 Kyra rated it liked it
Basically Kooser reminding contemporary poets to have less fun and stop being overly complicated...which does have it's place, sometimes. There really are decent tips in here, things I know I shall keep in mind, things I know will improve my writing. Overall, however, it feels very pessimistic. Kooser and I live around the same parts and I feel like he might be one of the old men who would tell me to get off his lawn but then offer me iced tea and let me pet his dog while telling me about why ...more
Emma Sea
Apr 11, 2016 Emma Sea rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous book about words and writing, not just for poets but for prose writers too. Good stuff about the weight of a noun, and when the tentative quality of a simile works better than a strident metaphor. Kooser made me feel it was okay that I find I don't like a lot of poetry, and he made me identify why I don't like it, at the same time as he introduced me to some wonderful new-to-me poets. I rec to all.
Apr 20, 2015 Peggy rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a very helpful book for beginning poets. Kooser demystifies the process of writing and editing poems without being overly technical.
Nov 17, 2016 Joel rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it
I am enjoying Ted's take on how to improve my poetry. His repair manual is full of humor and insight. Go Ted.
Feb 25, 2012 Cheryl rated it liked it
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 really liked it
Recommends it for: aspiring poets, all stripes
Shelves: poetry, nonfiction, 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
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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.” 30 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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