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

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  810 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Ideal for teachers who have been searching for a way to inspire students with a love for writing--and reading--contemporary poetry.

It is a book about shaping your memories and passions, your pleasures, obsessions, dreams, secrets, and sorrows into the poems you have always wanted to write. If you long to create poetry that is magical and moving, this is the book you've bee
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Tilbury House Publishers (first published June 15th 1995)
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Feb 22, 2016 Molly rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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 liked it
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
Aug 08, 2008 Ken rated it liked it
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 liked it
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. :(
May 03, 2011 Aran rated it liked it
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.
Gerry LaFemina
Jun 28, 2012 Gerry LaFemina rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 07, 2009 Tone rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
While I don't think I'll ever like poetry, this book has gotten me further along to understanding it.
Jan 22, 2008 Mikael rated it did not like it
the examples on the crossout poets were good but this book gives exercises youre not a gym
False Millennium
Nov 03, 2016 False Millennium rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
An illuminating guide for learning to write poetry. Lots of good exercises which should be easy for the amateur to tap into. I'm thinking of buying this book so I'll have more time to work with the exercises.
Jan 02, 2016 Aihua marked it as to-read Review
Steve Kowit believes, and rightly so, that poetry should show, not tell. The same could be said for good teaching, which is what makes this volume so remarkable. In In the Palm of Your Hand Kowit employs more than 100 poems and excerpts to illustrate his discussions on everything from metaphor to meter to metaphysics. Working your way through this book--and it is work--is like sitting in on a terrific creative-writing seminar, minus the criticism (both constructive and destructi
Lynda Felder
Apr 14, 2012 Lynda Felder rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 13, 2010 GNOWP rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-books
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
May 25, 2013 Ariadne rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2008 Mmt rated it it was amazing
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.
Dave Hood
Dec 29, 2013 Dave Hood rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 05, 2015 Madeleine rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 25, 2008 HeavyReader rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, writing
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!
Aug 26, 2008 A. rated it really liked it
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!
Oct 27, 2013 Sandra rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 20, 2008 Tina rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 05, 2015 Shari rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 27, 2013 Lex rated it liked it
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!
Tandava Brahmachari
Jun 24, 2015 Tandava Brahmachari rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, writing
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.
May 18, 2012 Levi rated it liked it
Shelves: textbooks
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.
Jul 12, 2011 Tina rated it it was amazing
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! : )
Jul 08, 2012 Casey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Isaac Timm
Apr 17, 2011 Isaac Timm rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2011, texts
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.
Oct 13, 2011 Elaine rated it really liked it
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.
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