Judging by the 2.00 sticker on the spine, I found this book at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, annual library book sale over 11 years ago. I opted for their "all the books you can stuff into a paper bag for $10" special and came out with many old books such as this, 50 Contemporary Poets, The Creative Process edited by Alberta T. Turner.
Have you ever loved reading a book so much you slowed down the reading of it to make it last longer? I did that with this book from 1977. Turner sent 100 poets a questionnaire to help poets describe their process writing one of their poems. Fifty poets complained that such an endeavor was impossible (imagine a mechanic saying that) or they were too busy (understandable) and fifty others were game.
Says the last poet, David Young:
"I'm aware as I finish this (more fun that I thought it would be) that my discussion in unlikely to change anybody's mind or affect anyone's judgement. To those who dislike the poem, a consideration of its writing at this length can only be ludicrous and vain. But to acknowledge in more words and detail than one has ever used before the intricacy of a process that is painful, joyful, mysterious, and absorbing requires a kind of honesty and patience that may bring a measure of satisfaction both to writer and reader."
I'll say. This book is fantastic on many levels.
- I learned more from the introduction than I've learned in whole poetry guides.
- All the poets are from 1977 and you get a good review of late-70s thinking.
- I haven't heard of most of these poets. Not only a good survey of popular 70s poets, but it reinforces the idea that some poets come and go.
- All the poets are widely different in how they work allusions, endings, beginnings, metaphor, use of language and how they assemble poems. There's something for everyone here. If you think one poet is an annoying twit, the next one will give you epiphanies.
- One question is about paraphrasing their poems. It's entertaining to see all the ways different poets freak out about this question. It can't be done! It robs poetry of its special magic powers! (You don't think students do this before a test?) Or paraphrasing is Jack the Ripper to their poems. One of my favorite responses was simply, a poem is a paraphrase. Wow! Like d'uh: all the paraphrases take longer than the actual poems. Anyway, it's fascinating to see how poets squirm or rejoyce in the questions.
- Because I have been watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show DVDs all June, I heard every essay in the voice of Rhoda.
I believe this is an out-of-print book but I see many used copies to be found. Enthusiastically recommended!