New Jersey poet Diane Lockward is both poet and teacher. As well, she is also publisher and guide, and her enthusiasm for sharing about the craft of poetry is renown: She has edited and published three earlier books on writing poetry, and now announces her newest The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft.
“Like (prior books),” Lockward says in her Introduction, “this one focuses on craft and emerged out of my belief that craft can be taught and that the best teacher of craft is a good poem.” Thus, she gives many examples of “good” poems which, she believes, can be used by those adept with the language of poetry to use as guides and, as she writes, “build on and hone the reader’s skills.”
Lockward is the editor of three earlier craft books: The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, and The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop. She is the author of four poetry books, most recently The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement (Wind Publications). Her awards include the Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, a poetry fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts,and a Woman of Achievement Award. Her poems have been included in such journals as the Harvard Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She is the founder and publisher of Terrapin Books.
The Strategic Poet has thirteen chapters, each undertaking a specific poetic strategy. Lockward likes this “baker’s dozen” (13) strategy, something she describes as “…admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but it’s also logical as it moves from the most basic strategies to more challenging ones.” The sections progress in levels of difficulty and sophistication, but they are also stand-alone.
Each section begins with a “Craft Talk.” These are comprised of snippets from Lockward’s monthly Poetry Newsletter, with many coming from other master poets from whom she sought contributions. Each Craft Talk contains Model Poems and Prompts, including an analysis of craft elements in each Model Poem. There is a Commentary for one Model Poem in each section. Lockward invited the poet who wrote each Model used to speak about it and the experience of writing it, and she hopes readers will enjoy this aspect.
The book includes 36 poetry-writing Prompts accompanied by two Sample Poems. These Sample Poems came from an open call for Submissions using the Prompts which netted 72 contributions from around the United States. The subject of “prompts” is one open for discussion among the poetry writing community:
“Every once in a while, someone tells me, I don’t like prompts,” Lockward writes in her Introduction. “Or, I can’t write to prompts. Or even, Real poets don’t use prompts. And yet I’ve been in a number of workshops where prompt deniers produced beautiful work written to prompts. Whether you are working with this book in a writing group, in a classroom, or on your own, I ask that you give the prompts a try. If, while you’re writing, you feel a tug to go off in a different direction, by all means, go there. Think of the guidelines as suggestions, not laws. Remember that as far back as Antiquity, Aristotle advocated the artistic principle of imitating and invention. That’s what this book advocates…”
As Lockward also says, “As the sample poems illustrate, real poets do indeed write real poems from prompts. Now set about honing your poetic skills and writing your own real poems.”
Whether writing solo or with a group, what could be more satisfying than beginning- or picking back up- one’s poetry writing now during National Poetry Month?
The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft is available on Amazon.com, at your local bookstore, from the publisher, or through Ingram books (for wholesale/retail inquiries).