Poetry Friday: Hangin’ With Kooser

I am working my way through Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual this summer. This week I read chapters 2-4.  When the purpose of reading is for how to improve something in your life (like writing poetry) it sure slows you down.  It seemd that each page containedthree to four gems.  Here are some of the favorites (Blue for Kooser’s thoughts and black for my response):

“Poem as a houseguest”  No one is going to try understand the hidden meanings.  This is so true.  I have a friend that because of the way poetry was taught to her, she hates poetry.  For her it means that you have to search for the hidden meaning.

“A poet needs to write with the essential details. No spare parts.”
Titles and first lines are what extend a hand in friendship to your readers
consider putting the information into the title. Use the title to carry information. Prune unnecessary words.
Opening lines are critical…sometimes writers use the first lines for the background story, writing toward the poem, including the nonessential
 Overloading the opening lines: caution here that they are not the best part and the rest of the poem falls flat

This makes me wonder what words in my poems have words to prune.  Do the titles of my poems provide information to the reader so I can get to the heart and not write toward the poem? Kooser talks about switching lines in  revision.  This works well for me in revisions of my haiku.

Kooser talked about trying forms as exercises, doing pull-ups with the pantuom.  He figures most readers will have to look up the term. He writes about the importance of self-educating with the form.


There is great benefit of  blogs on the Internet that provide prompts each week.  It gives the writer an opportunity to work on a variety of forms.  This is especially true of “Poetry Stretch” each Monday at The Miss Rumphius Effect.  I have learned so many forms of poetry through these weekly stretches.  It makes it fun to see if a poem I am working on will fit in a particular form.

I laughed when he talked about the pantuom, one of my favorite forms. No need for me to look it up.


Most importantly, poetry and the form most be fully integrated… and the poetry will develop toward the form best suited…I know this to be true of when I write a pantuom.

When I write a pantuom,  it usually pours onto the page, the poem that comes to mind is suited for the form.  If it doesn’t, I abandon the form but write down the words. Perhaps there’s a better form waiting.

Favorite quotes: “Writing is a way in which one person reaches out to another.”
“Every successful poem is unique and personal. It abides by its own rules of order.”

As I read this book, I am also very aware of how Kooser’s thoughts about poetry can be adapted to writing in general.  It’s great food for thought.

What are you reading?
Poetry Friday is hosted by My Juicy Little Universe.  Thanks, Heidi.  My original poem for the Poetry Stretch is HERE.