The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop

Review by Grace Cavalieri


The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop

edited by Diane Lockward

Terrapin Books, 2016

327 pages

Editor Lockward is crafty to produce a sequel to the original The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. She knows the score, so we shouldn’t be surprised that she’s assembled 65 stellar poets to each give a poem — good move — pick the best. Then each poem contains an explication and a literal level of the piece, pointing to some particulars, and specific poetic tools; and, finally, “a prompt” to write a poem of your own.

The contents of the book cover revising, entryways into poems, choosing the right words, syntax, line spacing, enhancing sound, etc. — all the necessary stuff — but what interests me most is the individual way each poet presents his/her poetic instruments, and how cleverly the writing tips are annexed. Each writer could almost be seen to be answering the same question: whether the language solves the issue raised by the poem.

Now that the power of poetry is a natural — not only academic — cultural reference in America, it’s the general public who deserves to have this book. It’s right on time to win hearts and minds of readers because it’s clear, smart and damn interesting. Let’s not hide it in the classroom when all literate readers deserve to see how to change emotional ideas to words.

Elegy for my husband

            Bruce Derricotte, June 22, 1928-June 21, 2011

What was there is no longer there:

Not the blood running its wires of flame through the whole length

Not the memories, the texts written in the language of the flat hills

No, not the memories, the porch swing and the father crying

The genteel and elegant aunt bleeding out on the highway

(Too black for the white ambulance to pick up)

Who had sent back lacquered plates from China

Who had given away her best ivory comb that one time she was angry

Not the muscles, the ones the white girls longed to touch

But must not (for your mother warned

You would be lynched in that all-white town you grew up in)

Not the same town where you were the only, the only good black boy

All that is gone

Not the muscles running, the baseball flying into your mitt

Not the hand that laid itself over my heart and saved me

Not the eyes that held the long gold tunnel I believed in

Not the restrained hand in love and in anger

Not the holding back

Not the taut holding

                —Toi Derricotte

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