by Cole Hackbarth
In 2005, Bison Books published Ted Kooser’s guidebook The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. In this “manual”, Ted Kooser offers advice to everyone on how to create, write, and possibly publish poems of their own. Ted Kooser has been writing poetry for almost fifty years, during that time he has published twelve collections of poetry, has been named the Poet Laureate of the United States, and is currently a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
When writing this guidebook, Kooser wanted to offer practical advice to poets of different skills and styles in the hopes of improving them. The guidebook consists of twelve chapters, with each chapter discussing the steps to take when writing a poem, and also other various aspects involved with writing poetry. Within each chapter, Kooser provides some of his own poems as examples when trying to teach the reader a lesson. Kooser also supplies other contemporary poems from other poets, as well as a few older poems from poets like Emily Dickinson included.
I myself am not much of a poet, but Kooser wrote this guidebook in a way that even I could understand by keeping technical poetry language to a minimum, and then providing a practical example to help readers understand. An example of this can be seen on page 47, when Kooser says that the form of a poem is comparable to a package of ham. The poem can be seen as the entire package, with the words and messages being the ham cubes, and the form being the container. Kooser tries to send the message that the important pieces of the poem are the ham cubes. Each chapter is very much like this, and Kooser is successful with each example he provides. Another thing I enjoyed about Kooser is how friendly and realistic he sounded in this guidebook, On page 49 he is honest and says how a sestina”is a whole hell of a lot of work”, and I definitely appreciate this honesty.
I think that other people would enjoy this book because it is a book that everybody can pick up and understand. The tone of the book is friendly, one that shows that poetry isn’t as threatening as people think it is. I certainly recommend it, and hope that other people decide to give this guidebook the same chance I did.