Packard (1933-2002), founder of the The New York Quarterly offers up a book is both an artistic and practical guide to the genre, applicable for writers, readers, and teachers alike.
It begins with a brief but concise history of poetry, and ends with thoughts on the life of a poet. In between are the nuts and bolts of various poetic genres, structures, devices, and forms, plus 30 writing exercises that seek to extend a writer’s craft as a poetry practitioner.
On The New York Quarterly web site, a memorial to Packard notes that he saw poetry as both an inspired high art form and a practicable craft. "Art is hard," he wrote in an essay on the teaching of poetry, "and the writing of poetry is a crucial experience, consisting of crisis and sacrifice, and it must be pursued with pride and seriousness. It should be a risk of the will, a test of the intellect, and a heightening of the heart." So while Packard acknowledges the high art of poetry, he also offers up no-nonsense access for a writer interested in working in the genre.
Packard writes, “Image and sound and voice—these are the three techniques of the craft of poetry.” I loved the exercises on cacophony, synonyms and antonyms, oxymoron, and verse forms, but there are prompts that will be useful for any would be poet. There is also a handy chapter on reading while writing, which gives a comprehensive reading list.
One of the best lectures I heard during my tenure at Vermont was one from Ron Koetrge on the value of poetry for the prose writer. His suggestion was to begin each day reading a bit of poetry to let the words wash over you as inspiration. I would suggest taking it one more step. Write a short poem everyday. Consider it a craft workout, and The Art of Poetry Writing is a great way to get started.
Packard, William. The Art of Poetry Writing: A Guide For Poets, Students and Readers. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
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