Reading List: Books on Writing Prose & Poetry

As I find the process fascinating, how it varies writer by writer, I often go for books on the ins and outs of the craft. The following are titles I’ve enjoyed over the last few months.

The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing – Richard Hugo

“Richard Hugo, whom Carolyn Kizer called ‘one of the most passionate, energetic and honest poets living,’ was that rare phenomenon―a distinguished poet who was also an inspiring teacher. The Triggering Town is Hugo’s classic collection of lectures, essays, and reflections, all ‘directed toward helping with that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems.’ From pieces that include “Writing off the Subject” and “How Poets Make a Living,” anyone, from the beginning poet to the mature writer to the lover of literature, will benefit greatly from Hugo’s playful and profound insights into the mysteries of literary creation.” || Print

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction – Jeff Vandermeer

Wonderbook has become the definitive guide to writing science fiction and fantasy by offering an accessible, example-rich approach that emphasizes the importance of playfulness as well as pragmatism. It also exploits the visual nature of genre culture and employs bold, full-color drawings, maps, renderings, and visualizations to stimulate creative thinking. On top of all that, the book features sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names working in the field today, including George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, and Karen Joy Fowler.” || Print, E-Book

The Art of Description – Mark Doty

“‘It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see,’ Mark Doty begins. ‘But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . .’ Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others.” || Print


The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry – Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux

The Poet’s Companion presents brief essays on the elements of poetry, technique, and suggested subjects for writing, each followed by distinctive writing exercises. The ups and downs of writing life―including self-doubt and writer’s block―are here, along with tips about getting published and writing in the electronic age. On your own, this book can be your “teacher,” while groups, in or out of the classroom, can profit from sharing weekly assignments.” || Print

Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within – Kim Addonizio

“‘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 poetic resources of the Internet. Lively, accessible, and informative, Ordinary Genius provides wisdom gleaned through personal experience and offers a heady variety of writing exercises. Chapters on gender, addiction, race and class, metaphor and line invite each individual writer to find and to hone his or her unique voice. This is the perfect book for both experienced writers and beginners eager to glimpse the angel of poetry.” || Print