The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop, by Diane Lockward. Wind Publications. 282 pages.        

Here is a must for teachers of poetry, that means all writers—for that’s  how we make our living. Lockward tells us this began in 2010 from her “poetry newsletter” with craft tips and model poems. Also, there is material from her poetry blog, kept since 2007. I would want this for the anthologized poets alone—but added to that are lessons on every aspect of the writing process. What a way to ease our students into finding their own toolboxes. One hundred and one poets are here with poems that teach and enlighten.

Here is what I found besides a feast of poems and instructions: What a poem is; how it is part of a public debate; the series of decisions that lead to a poem; the immersion of the poet in the poem; the sanctioning and humanizing of language; the resonance; what poetry represents; the backlash from falsity; the burrowing in; the focused desire; the spirit unleashed; what things we cannot resist and what should be resisted.

The interviews are priceless. There is a hearty discussion with Nancy White about the use of a hangnail in her poem and why White used that particular. Now, THAT is talking craft.

As for making craft into art, only a dedicated obsessor can join up and live the life. And for that there is no lesson and no cure.

Along with a fulsome personal description about the below poem, contributor Linda Pastan (Craft Tip #12: Some Uses of Myth) offers “Penelope”:


The sun is scarcely

a shadow of itself,

it bled into the sea

all last week

and now, bandaged away.

waits out with me the long, long

month of rain.

Grey fades to grey.

The horizon is

the finest seam between

water and water, sky and sky.

Only the tide still moves,

leaving the print of its ribbed bones

on the abandoned  sand

as you left yours on me

when you moved imperceptibly from my embrace.

I must wring out the towels,

wring out the swimsuits,

wring my eyes dry of tears,

watching at a window

on one leg, then the other,

like the almost extinct heron.



Monthly Poetry Reviews

by Grace Cavalieri