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The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach
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The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,176 ratings  ·  54 reviews
A distinctive collection of more than 90 effective poetry-writing exercises combined with corresponding essays to inspire writers of all levels.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 23rd 1992 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  1,176 ratings  ·  54 reviews

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Laura Ellen
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was exposed to this work in an experimental poetry class taught by Carolyn Forche. Remains one of the only writing texts I can tolerate. I adapt these exercises for prose, and they work wonderfully.
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Part of me wants to hate on writing-by-formula, but I like this book a lot and was interested in a lot of the exercises. It's a good read on its own, even if you don't intend to use any of the prompts. After each prompt, the author explains why s/he finds these particular constraints valuable. I liked Agha Shahid Ali's reflections on the ghazal especially.

Also, most of the authors qualify their prompts as ways of making discoveries, not keys to creating perfect poems on the spot. Plus, the last
Jul 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-writing
An excellent collection of essays on writing poetry. I wish I had it when I taught my poetry writing class.
J & J
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I would like to see more examples of finished poems. Explaining how to write it is often not enough. A finished model, after explanation would be helpful.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Much of my reading this period has been that of actual poetry. From this beginning introduction to the reach and range of voice in poems I have entered a boundary-less and fantastical world. A world of structure, no structure, metaphor, rhythm, sometimes rhyme, line lengths, space, beginnings, and endings. Reading the work of other poets has been an education for me in the unlimited possibilities in the use of language.

I have also consumed books on the meaning of poetry, the place of poetry in t
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-interest
I found the exercises very helpful and they generated new ideas for my passion of writing poetry.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who want to be a better poet
Recommended to Douglas by: no one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cylia Kamp
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Well, never say never! I'm moving this book to my to-read, read-again-later shelves. It's still on my real desktop, but I feel an increasing lack of closure seeing it on my currently-reading shelf every time I open my virtual desktop. I do read it off and on but not all the time! There's no shelf that exactly fits this book's category. Yet it's still a 5-Star winner, but more a reference than a read-start-to-finish book.


This is a fantastic bo
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a soon-to-be Intro to Poetry Writing instructor, this is a great touchstone. Can't wait to experiment on my fledgling-guinea-pig-poet-undergrad-beasties. If I don't directly use these exercises, I'm sure to indirectly use them. Best part of the book for me were the explanations of the exercises.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, on-writing
Whether I do an exercise from this book by myself or with a writing group, I always end up with something interesting and unexpected. A unique collection offering wide interpretations and great ideas.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are some great exercises in here. Very inspiring! Even with the ones I didn't think much of, my classmates would come up with something intriguing or brilliant that changed how I thought about the exercise. I'm definitely keeping this book to refer back to.
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poets
Shelves: writing-books
This is a good reference book for poets.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writingbooks, 2017
Good selection of exercises. More aimed at teachers than at writers, but it sparked some productive writing sessions.
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, writing
A great resource for writing exercises, prompts, ideas, and encouragement.
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
They have some pretty good writing prompts for poetry :)
Tandava Brahmachari
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, poetics
A great concept, with many different people submitting writing exercises on everything from facing the blank page to revising an existing poem. I didn't find myself getting particularly excited about very many of them, and I often felt things were more subconscious than I'd like, though I suppose that's okay at some level of just needing to learn and practice. But I took away a few ideas I might try.
James Waring
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On the surface, this book is a collection of interesting, quick-step prompts from really good poets and teachers. And it's perfectly suited to help aspiring poets develop specific skills, which is its stated objective.

But I think the prompts may be more useful — and certainly more fun — in a game night setting, where a group can learn and laugh about the interior worlds of the people around them. Way more interesting than Crimes, not as loud as Boggle.
Kevin Pal
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
A collection of more than ninety exercises and essays from writing teachers, containing both imaginative ways to kick off the writing process, along with lessons on the technicalities of writing poetry. Some of the chapters work better than others, but overall a good starting point.
Dyana Daniel
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A helpful book

A good book with some helpful exercises you could try out. I appreciate the clarity of the instructions and it's not too ambitious.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poems-poetry
Behn, Robin, and Chase Twichell. The Practice of Poetry : Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach. 1st ed. New York N.Y.: Collins Reference, 2005. Print.

This book serves multiple purposes, although I approached it as a solo poet, working alone. It could easily be used in a classroom situation or other group setting.

The book primarily consists of exercises, of various types, supplied by teachers of poetry writing. There are exercises for the individual and for groups. Many of the group exercises
Anna Hiller
Dec 19, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: blocked poets, creative writing teachers, poets in need of a facelift
This book is just chock full of useful exercises to get a poet's pen moving. Some of them are more useful than others, some of them are downright annoying (but not as annoying as the hot-potato exercise that Eric Maisel recommends in "Fearless Creating"--*there's* a book I don't recommend).

I'd say that if you're a severely blocked poet, this book might be of use to you, but only if you're prepared to experiment with exercises that may feel very uncomfortable at first, sometimes even trite.

Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Yowza. In 1998, a creative writing grad student (I was a lowely sophomore at the time) gave us a photocopied page out of this book. I loved it. Except it never produced even one complete poem for me. Frustrated, I eventually quite trying to do the exercise. But I did keep the photocopy.

Damn. I should have bought this book years ago. I have never bought a book on the creation of any art in which the contributors pushed their 'students' to get deep into the wildness and passion of free verse, the
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
I just revisited this book in 2017 (first time: 2012). I'm in desperate need of some places to start writing again and exercises work well for me if they are crafted based on rich background and give enough room for a wide variety of responses. It's a bonus if there are references to poets and poems too. This book is the only one I've found that meets this criteria. Probably if I looked around for materials aimed at teachers I would find more. This book makes me think of the most successful (for ...more
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
I read this entire book and did about 85% of the exercises. I plan on doing most of the ones I haven't in the next month or so.

I worked through this book over the 2014 year and it was a great help to me. I am a struggling poet - ie I don't consider myself even a good poet. This book gave me a few tools in my poetry toolkit that I believe I will go back to time and time again.

What I discovered through reading this book is that I don't know what makes a good poem. I know what I like and what speak
Heidi Contreras
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a practical writing book that jump starts the creative process. It is one I go back to time and time again. I have not finished reading it cover to cover, because I don't have to. This book is meant to be grabbed off the shelf, used and used over and over again. I love it. I met Chase Twichell who co-edited this book with Robin Behn at TU's Writer's Conference several years ago. She is a delightful person.
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've had this book for over 7 years. I've used it more than any other writing book I've ever had. This is a great book to have around if and when you have block but still want to get some words down. It is also helpful around technique as it is organized into technical sections such as "Image and Metaphor," Aspects of Voice," or "Sound, Rhythm, and the Line."
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching-english
As a collection of exercises, this can't be beat. As it comes from College creative writing classes, it often needs some adaptation for younger, less committed students. Still, there is a wealth of info here, enough to last a school year or five.
John Struloeff
Jan 04, 2009 rated it liked it
As a poetry writing teacher, I've used this book to prompt ideas for in-class writing. I haven't used any of the ideas from the book directly yet, which seems odd to me, but it has prompted new ideas of my own.
Susan Swartwout
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I had the great good fortune to have Robin Behn as my first college poetry professor. The exercises in this boom--from creative-writing workshop facilitators across the nation--are great for individual practice or for the classroom.
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who want to write more and better poetry
Shelves: poetry
This book has found a permanent place in my life. The exercises in it have inspired about half of the poems I have written since I bought it. Every time I pick it up, it is like attending a poetry seminar held just for me.
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