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In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  709 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Provides aspiring poets guidance on writing poetry.
Paperback, 274 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Tilbury House Publishers (first published June 15th 1995)
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The Crafty Poet by Diane LockwardThe Triggering Town by Richard HugoLetters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria RilkeThe Poet's Companion by Kim AddonizioIn the Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit
Best Books on Writing Poetry
5th out of 47 books — 74 voters
On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
158th out of 530 books — 989 voters

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Oct 28, 2007 Molly rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone teaching or writing poetry
This is easily the best textbook I have ever used in any of my classes--creative writing, literature, or composition. Not only was the instruction clear and helpful, but the writing is so accessible that the students looked forward to reading it. Normally, I have trouble getting my students to complete the reading, but that was not the case with this book--they loved reading it. And the assignments are wonderful because they are straightforward and easy to understand and also help the students f ...more
There is some good material here, and the author strikes an affable narrative voice, but much of the material feels just a bit facile, and the exercises are (overall) not terribly inspiring. But I did find this somewhat helpful in planning the poetry section of my Intro to Creative Writing class.
Melanie Faith
Sep 11, 2009 Melanie Faith rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: other writers, teachers, readers
I have chosen this book for a poetry writing course I will teach next month. I've read it before and used several of the exercises within it to pen my own poems. Steve Kowit uses excellent and insightful poetic examples and his technique comments are down-to-earth and accessible. He has great insight on various elements of the poetry writing process, as demonstrated in chapters like "The Art of Revision" and "Lonely as a Leftover Thumb: Figure and Image" and "Speeding Home in Reverse: The Contro ...more
Ron Mohring
Jul 27, 2009 Ron Mohring rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beginning poets
Though I felt initially enthusiastic about this text and assigned it in a few sections of my creative writing classes, I came to grow disenchanted, specifically with the poems provided as examples: they seemed increasingly two-dimensional and were easily replaced by *better* poems. So I ended up supplementing the assignments with extra poems. Which led me to look elsewhere for a better text. Which of course is an endless process for many of us.

Reader-friendly, yes. Well-organized, yes. Good for
Designed for would-be poets who want to become have-become poets, PALM OF YOUR HAND can be used by teachers as well, as it takes a soup-to-nuts tour of poetic elements and skills. Some of Kowit's included poetry is kid-friendly, but most seems chosen with adults and college students in mind. Nothing earth-shakingly different about this "Portable Workshop," and I prefer Ted Kooser's "Toolbox" book in a similar vein. But, as always, in search of the perfect teacher/poetry for middle school book. N ...more
Oct 31, 2007 Phayvanh rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers
Shelves: half-read, reviews, 2007
I didn't get very far, because following his excersices took a lot out of me... I wrote some poems that were tought for me to write... was that the point? Some might think so after reading Dorriane Laux's introduction.

But I do think they were helpful and this is a good book for taking prompts from. Probably easily adaptable to fiction and other genres.

I only half-read it because I was already paying heavy late fees on it and had to return it to the library. :(
Gerry LaFemina
Really, this is a solid introductory book for the novice poet--though I wish it had more diverse samples, as the author's aesthetic bias weighs the book toward one type of poem.
May 03, 2011 Aran rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Seems like a handy guide for neophytes.... not what I was looking for though.... Good selection of example poems and one by Jack Gilbert I hadn't read before.
While I don't think I'll ever like poetry, this book has gotten me further along to understanding it.
the examples on the crossout poets were good but this book gives exercises youre not a gym
Lynda Felder
I have always known that one day I would take this path
though yesterday I did not know it would be today.
— Arriwara no Naribari (Japan, eleventh century) (page vii)

Once in a while, a student confides that he wants to write songs. “How do I get started?” There’s no better place to begin than Steve Kowitt’s illuminating guide, In the Palm of Your Hand. This is a book I turn to again and again, to remember how to shape memory, passion, pleasure, dreams, secrets and sorrows into music. This is a boo
This book was assigned reading for me once upon a time in an early college poetry class, so naturally I read very little of it. What I remembered most about it was the assignments at the end of each chapter. Some time back I found myself itching for poetry assignments, since I've been out of school for so long, so I dug this book out. Now that it is no longer required, I found myself enjoying the process of reading through the chapters and working on the assignments. This really is a handy littl ...more
I cannot live without this book. It is the best for writer's block. I have used this book so often that I've had to tape the cover back on and repair pages. This is one of the books that always goes with me when I evacuate. If you are interested in writing poetry, want to teach your students how to write poetry, need to have some inspiration when the well is dry--this be the book!

excerpt: ""It's true that some poems come quickly and that it's possible to get lucky and write a real one, a good o
There is an "Awful Poems" section that reminded me of the drivel I had to hear repeatedly in my first writers group. Bless you, Steve Kowit, for your honesty about this touchy subject. Maybe I'll send an anonymous copy. The quality of the exercises is excellent, and I think it would be difficult to apply this and not have your poetry improve.
Fantastic volume for any aspiring poet to broaden your understanding and conception of a wide range of poetry and to practice new writing techniques. I really enjoyed reading it straight through and picking out the writing exercises that appealed to me. Took me a long time to get through, though, because every time he quotes a poem, I want to look it up to read the rest! A lot of incredible work to explore here.
Dave Hood
One of the best books that will teach you the techniques of writing many types of free verse, such as narrative, meditative, object, image, prose poem.

An idea that sparks

A pen and notebook
To express emotion
Share thoughts

Words that sing
Metaphors that reveal
Deeper meaning

An ending
Illuminating some truth
Of the human condition

A good poem is like
A sage who teaches
Life' s meaning and purpose

The best are remembered
A fantastic, practical, inspiring and throughly knowledgeable book on writing poetry that is accessible to the beginning poet and the fiction writer who understands that a knowledge of poetry is a great way to improve your imagery, economy of language, and your emotional rendering. If you follow the exercises in the book, you'll finish it with a fine collection of poems in draft form that you can hone and craft --probably while reading other books on writing poetry!
This book is certainly the only book of writing "exercises" I've ever deem worth a damn, and to be honest, I was amazed. The ideas are wonderful, and there's something for every occasion or need. Best of all, the "exercises" are designed to be useful more than once--which is what people who write really need. I've gotten some great stuff out of myself because of this book, and I think it has the potential to do the same for everyone.
This is a really great book about writing poetry. It was written by a fellow who writes poetry and teaches others how to write poetry. The book includes writing exercises and lots and lots of examples of great poems.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about writing poetry and wants assignments that lead to the writing of poems.

I wrote several poems I like a lot using this book. It is great!
This is a wonderful book. It does contain exercises, but more importantly it talks about poetry, it finds a language to discuss the many approaches, forms and tools of poetry. It is not a "Dummies" book, but I think it allows people who have many different levels of experience with writing to get into the world of contemporary poetry, to dabble or to extend their expertise. I find it a great companion to have on my shelf.
Tandava Brahmachari
This book has a very nice balance to it: Lots of chapters of a very comfortable, manageable length, on clear topics. Covers a mix of structure, technique, topics, etc. Right balance of example poems and description/commentary. The examples themselves were mostly complete poems without being so long as to break the flow, and I enjoyed a number of them. Lots of good prompts for practice poems, too.
Euan Semple
I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially the poems chosen as examples. Didn't do many of the exercises though. This was more my fault than the author's!
There were some very confusing parts of this book. We used it I my Poetry Writing class at Western Carolina University. My professor even pointed a mistake once. She found it very exciting. The examples given didn't make much sense to me. Although, there are some wonderful, helpful phrases throughout the book. It's a shame the examples weren't as much help!
This is probably the most reader-friendly of the poetry handbooks I read in preparation for teaching. This will be very helpful to me in my year of teaching--to explain things to students and as a source of great writing exercises.

I'd consider using this as a course text for an introductory class. I would've loved having this as an undergrad.
I was assigned this book for a creative writing class. We didn't get through the whole thing in class because poetry was only covered for a few weeks, but the assigned chapters were definitely helpful. Every chapter has at least one exercise at the end to help improve your poetry skills.
I very good text not only of writing poetry but writing in general. I liked the many exercises and poetry theme prompts. Meter and formal structure is difficult for me, so I really enjoyed how he spread it out through five chapters, breaking it down into portions I could understand.
The perfect book if you are a writer in need of prompts. This book has some of the most original prompts and ideas I've ever used, and they are so easy to tweak if you want to mold them to your style or even use them in your own classroom.
Love this book! I was taking Steve Kowit's class while he was writing it and many of the lessons we learned came right from the book. I may be a little biased, however, because I took the author photo that appears on the book! : )
I find this book inspiring and encouraging. I have given it as a gift to a songwriter and find myself going back to it for inspiration. His thoughts and questions apply to not only writing but sparking ideas for me visually as well.
Just indispensable for anyone teaching writing: although targeted at college-level writers, it can easily be adapted. Also great for those looking to understand a wee-bit more about reading poetry.
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