Poetry Home Repair Manual – Small Press Month Book Recommendation #5

Here’s another great indie-press book (actually two), in our Small Press Month–inspired tip of the hat to some remarkable indie press titles populating my bookshelves . . . which should be in yours, too!

I’m a long-time fan of Ted Kooser’s work – accessible, moving poetry and wonderful essays.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual combines both. Do you write poetry? Fiction? Nonfiction? No matter. Absorb just a fraction of the advice in this slim volume, and you will write better.

Here’s a snippet, under the subhead “Don’t Weigh Down Your Poem with Spare Parts.”

When engineers design lawn mowers they don’t throw in a lot of extra doodads. Extras in lawn mowers don’t help do the work of mowing, and they can make the mower heavier than it ought to be, too hard to push around the yard. And extras can get in the way, can come loose and fall down inside and jam the belt. Extras are also expensive. When it comes to poems, too many extras, too much froufrou and falderal, can cost you a reader.

He goes on to compare poems to inventions, and notes that no matter how clever it is . . . unless it meets an audience’s needs and interests, it’s not very useful.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual:
Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

By Ted Kooser
Bison Books / University of Nebraska Press (2005)
paperback, $13.95 list price

Kooser has won a boatload of prizes and accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize, and was U.S. Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006.

The other Kooser book I wanted to mention, also prose, is

Local Wonders:
Seasons in the Bohemian Alps
(2002)

These are exquisite prose descriptions of the place Kooser lives, as he follows a year through the seasons in the hills of southeastern Nebraska (known as the Bohemian Alps). Author Jim Harrison called it “the quietest magnificent book I’ve ever read.” These are rich insights about life and how it is tied to a sense of place, and the writing is peppered with Kooser’s knack for the clear, brilliant metaphor.

“A quietly eloquent diary of a year in a small town in Nebraska. . . . a heartfelt plainspoken book about slowing down and appreciating the world. . . . Maybe it’s exactly the feeling your friends, even you, are looking for.” – New York Times book critic Janet Maslin

“Reading. . . . Local Wonders is a bit like running into Lao Tsu and Confucius in line at the hardware store.” – Fourth Genre

The Poetry Home Repair Manual and Local Wonders are published by University of Nebraska Press.

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