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Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  80 reviews
"The creative process is just that," maintains Kim Addonizio. "Not a means to an end, but an ongoing participation." A widely acclaimed poet and finalist for the National Book Award, Addonizio meditates on her own process as she encourages writers to explore both their personal and political worlds, to seek inspiration from poets new and old, and to discover the rich poeti ...more
Paperback, 311 pages
Published February 16th 2009 by W. W. Norton Company
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Sep 08, 2009 marked it as to-read
I want to get this and Ted Kooser's how-to-write-poetry-book and put them together on the shelf, just to make Ted really uncomfortable around Kim. ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you read Addonizio's first poetry helper book, The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, then you can probably miss this one without any great loss. I read it and picked up a few tids and a few bits, all good.

If you haven't read the first book and are interested in trying your hand at poetry, I recommend this. It is chock full of prompts and writing ideas (all of which I skipped over because my mind is swirling with ideas awaiting execution as it is), and I'm sure begi
Nijla Mumin
I really needed to read this book at this time in my life. I was starting to become doubtful, restless, and frustrated with my poetry, and my future as a poet.

This is a rather organic book that doesn't rely on quick fix- type solutions or ways to write poems. Addonizio instead writes of poetry as a journey, a winding road that is unpredictable and always informed by the passion and discipline that the writer brings to it. The writing exercises that she provides are excellent ways to begin those
Alexandrea Jarvis
Wow. If you’re at all interested in writing poetry, pick this up.
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So many wonderful ideas for how to write a poem, and for how to spark and sustain the writing life.
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've read (and loved) all of Ms. Addonizio's books and this is, by far, one of my favorites. She does cover some of the basics of poetry writing, but also delves into the deeper side of poetry with some fabulous examples - delicious tidbits thrown in by awesome poets like Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Susan Browne, Lucille Clifton and Tony Hoagland to name just a few. The book is also overflowing with shimmering, thought-provoking quotes by other poets and writers. I wrote several in my "favorite ...more
Tracy Hart
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
There's a lot to like in this guide to writing poetry, and I took a lot of notes. My lightbulb moment was when Addonizio explained something about meter that has always eluded me. Being someone for whom the "music" of a poem is supremely important, I have always wanted to fully understand metrical conventions but never quite got it. This book blew me away with the simple explanation of the role that meter plays in the *meaning* of a poem: it contributes a compelling tension by the juxtaposition ...more
I read this book to prepare for teaching poetry in an Intro to Creative Writing class. The generative exercises and discussions of craft are somewhat useful, but best of all is the material on revision. I read through a half-dozen poetry craft books in a desperate search for craft essays that would convince students of the importance of revision. Found it here. Particularly helpful chapters for helping students learn how to undertake large-scale revision of their poems (such a difficult thing to ...more
Sigrun Hodne
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Parts of this book is basic, some (well trained and/or clever poets ...) will probably find it too basic, but there is lots of very interesting stuff in between. Addonizio has a direct and intimate voice, giving the reader-writer useful and practical advices, and also - at least in my case - confidence. A great workbook - I like it!
Beth Browne
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written, wonderful book for just about any writer, not just poets.
Joan Colby
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Many of the prompts and exercises offered are ones I’ve used over years of teaching. Thus, while I didn’t gather much news from this well-written and researched book, I’d advocate it strongly for those just entering the teaching of poetry and those who are neophytes in the writing of it.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-how-to
Words as Tools

Addonizio, Kim (2009). Ordinary genius: A guide for the poet within. New York: W.W.Norton.

Poet Addonizio describes her process of creating poetry, supplemented with description of other possible methods, and plenty of fine examples of poetry. There are good discussions of how to observe keenly, working with metaphor and humor, making use of fairy tales and myths, mastering meter, and the process of revision. It’s all solid, well-articulated advice, none of it too simple for even th
Gerry LaFemina
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I love Addonizio's poems and regularly use the book she co-wrote with Dorianne Laux in my poetry workshops, this book, sadly, was more ordinary than genius, but that might be because I'm not its intended audience. For a much more beginner poet this might give them the encouragement and the foundation they need to write. ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Addonizio gives detailed examples with critique and explanation throughout this book. She uses classic poetry as well as modern to illustrate her points.The writing exercises are plentiful. She shares her own process for revision, and encourages poets to also read widely.
Max Ritter
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Like many people (I assume), I read this in addition to The Poet's Companion. It probably deserves to be reviewed in its own right, but being that I approached this as essentially a continuation of the Companion, I'll review it as such.

Generally, I thought it was a better book. Addonizio is a great writer, and the whole time I felt like I was getting earnest and caring advice from somebody invested in my future. It felt a bit more personal, while the Companion was more of a clinical instruction
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It may have taken me two months to get through this book, but that bears no light on the tremendous wealth this book contains. It's better than any textbook could possibly be on writing poetry, and it's a better guide to teaching poetry than anything I've read because it treats poetry as an art accessible to everyone and the reader (and potential teacher) as a poet as well.

I hate dog-earring pages but I couldn't help myself with this one. There were too many lessons I wanted to add to my teachin
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Breathe in, Breathe out

Alot of writing books are heavy on pep talks or the physical act of sitting down and writing. Or they have the best stuff in the first half.

This isn't one those books.

The book builds the reader with a host of excersizes and examples.

I found new forms like the American Sentence Blues Poem, and Pantoum. I have enough excersizes to keep busy all year. I have new websites like postsecrets and addictionZ to bring out the pain.

Addonizio save the hardest part - meter for last, so
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Books like these are pretty diffuse, where you hope somewhere along the way you get enough fizzy and fun ideas that a) you put down the book to write something and b) come back for more. This one had enough in it for me to read all the way through, even though some chapters didn't do much for me. But in the end, I have a page of so of tightly spaced notes and an intention to go back to this and mine it for more good stuff.... ...more
Christian Chester
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was required reading for a Creative Writing course i took in college. Took me about 3 hours to skim read and another 3 to write notes about it. So in all, I read this book twice, skimmed and reflective. It covers the beginner and intermediate tasks for writers (focusing on poets). It has one chapter I absolutely hate, on white fragility and whiteness, and its the reason the book isn't rated a 5 by me. If she removed that chapter this book would be 4.7 or higher IMO. ...more
Stefani Akins
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, that's nice. I was writing a meaningful review when suddenly my program fritzed out on me and closed my browser. Thanks to Goodreads not saving ongoing work, the review is gone, and I simply cannot be arsed to redo it. Let's just say this book makes me want to work more on writing again and leave it at that. ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a really great guide to writing poetry. It has lots of great tools and exercises to help jump start your writing. I enjoyed this book very much and know that I will go back to this book often when I need some inspiration.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to
Loved the book. It was just what I needed. The book was like a one on one workshop with a friend who had been where you are where ever you are at the moment. And it had everything from wonderful prompts to encouragements to revision direction.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a solid, textbook manual on how to write poetry, and how to appreciate its craft. I found the personal narrative to be completely white centric, focusing on mundane subjects rather than how to delve deeply in the craft.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was interested, and then I was impressed that Kim Addonizio addressed identity pieces in poetry - pointing out that sometimes our poetry is affected by the same prejudices we carry in real life.
Lucy Hester
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read for thinking about the creative life.
Brett Elizabeth
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Not all chapters were helpful but spurred some interesting writing from me.
Dave Holt
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a good read for a writing teacher. Kim has years of teaching experience that make this book a great source for others like me who sometimes teach and tutor young writers.
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book covers all topics: getting ideas, language, revision, publishing. It has really good exercises.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books on writing poetry I have found.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is great. May I always be a beginner poet. May I always have a beginner mind.
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Author of several poetry collections including Tell Me, a National Book Award Finalist. My Black Angel is a book of blues poems with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones, from SFA Press. The Palace of Illusions is a story collection from Counterpoint/Soft Skull. A New & Selected, Wild Nights, is out in the UK from Bloodaxe Books.

2016 publications: Mortal Trash, new poems, from W.W. Norton, awarded the Pat

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