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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 ·  1,216 ratings  ·  67 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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 ·  1,216 ratings  ·  67 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
Dona reads Too many At a time!
This book is full of excellent poetry exercises that can be used for practice or as prompts to get the creative engine purring. With these exercise manuals, you sometimes think, You've seen one, you've seen them all, but you haven't seen what'sin this one. The editors Behn and Twichell compiled these exercises from experts in the education of poetry, and it shows. Clever, creative, and expanding, you are bound to find exercises in this ageless volume that will challenge and develop your poetic m ...more
Jul 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very good read. Exactly what I expected and exactly what I wanted. Further defined on my thoughts and goals with writing exercises and I've already roped several friends into doing them with me. Some are insane and I will never do them, but some offered an invaluable insight on what you can accomplish when you focus on one technical goal to the extreme. I typed up a one sentence summary of each and printed them out to pull from a hat. This will supply me for several years. It was great to hear f ...more
Jun 24, 2022 rated it really liked it
Nothing can be better than over a hundred instructor tested poetry activities actually used in the classroom. Broken into sections for easy reference each activity is explained how it was used by the individual instructor in the classroom. Many of the activities are presented with examples that are instructor and novice friendly. With the categories its easy for an instructor to pull an activity to teach within a poetry lesion. Some focus on meter, rhythm, metaphor, writers block, found poems, a ...more
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 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kaylin Ruth Johnson
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Overall, this book has been extremely helpful in prompting me to continue writing. So many new poems have been born in my mind from the exercises within The Practice of Poetry. This book is especially good as a quick reference when a writer is experiencing “writer’s block” or is just missing inspiration. Simply pick up the book and flip to any page to find an exercise which will give you a place to start.
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. ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Shelves: favorites
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. ...more
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 :)
Joseph Hirsch
Jul 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
For a lot of people, poetry is something you write as therapy, or as a form of confession, to unburden oneself and to heal. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, as it beats the more widely held perception of poetry as a waste of time.

But anyone wanting to get serious about poetry as a craft rather than solely a means of self-expression is quickly going to discover that writing a poem can require as much thought, effort, and concentration as solving a complex math problem. Learning about th
Tandava Graham
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. ...more
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.
Apr 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a great book of prompts and exercises, including some form poem basics and some advice about revision. A good book to have in your toolbox whether you are a teacher, aspiring poet, or advanced writer.
Jun 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of good advice

As a practicing or novice poet there are a lot of good ideas to stretch your writing muscles. Many different ways of looking. A slight criticism, the poem examples are mostly from based in the US.
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.
Ayesha Fayyaz
I will re-read once I re-gain my interest in poetry. I wrote first few chapters. There are some nice tricks and tips to become a better writer.
Sonee Singh
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Offers a wide array of exercises that act as prompts for poetry. Even if an exercise doesn’t work, I feel it’s likely to find one that does because they are all quite different.
Alicia Grega
Nov 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Literally packed with exercises.
F.C. Shultz
Some great exercises in here. I’d love to teach poetry to young people someday, and will definitely be using a handful of these exercises. Good stuff!
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