Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Resources to Pump Up Your Poetry ~ by Patricia Toht

April is sweet. Not only does the Chicago winter finally lose its grip and flowers poke up in the garden, but it's also the month for EVERYTHING POETRY. To celebrate, I thought a poetry post was in order.

While waiting for the muse to arrive, I began to straighten my workspace. That's when that cheeky muse struck me (literally) with an idea. A wonky stack of books slid off the shelf and onto my foot -- books about writing poetry.

A post on poetry resources! And so, here are some of the things that help me pump up my poetry:

Read! Books for Poets.
• A great rhyming dictionary and thesaurus. My preferred editions are Webster's New World Roget's A-Z Thesaurus (Wiley Publishing, 1999) and The Complete Rhyming Dictionary, edited by Clement Wood (Doubleday, 1991).

• Books about writing poetry. Top of my stack is Myra Cohn Livingston's POEM-MAKING: WAYS TO BEGIN WRITING POETRY. Its advice is simple enough for students, yet thorough enough for seasoned poets. 

Two others, geared for students yet thoroughly useful to me, are KNOCK AT A STAR by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy and HOW TO WRITE POETRY by Paul B. Janeczko. 
These books take me back to the basics and remind me that a clever couplet can be as sublime as a sonnet.
For books aimed at the (ahem) "mature" poet, I like THE ODE LESS TRAVELLED by Stephen Fry, which erases a bit of the intimidation and mystery that surrounds the writing of poetry. Two on my to-be read list, based on fellow poets' suggestions, are  Mary Oliver's A POETRY HANDBOOK and Susan G. Wooldridge's POEM CRAZY. (Thanks Mandy, Dawn and Dianne!)  

• A children's picture dictionary. I use this to un-stick me when I'm short on ideas to write about. I close my eyes, randomly open it, and plunk down a finger on an entry. Then I brainstorm ideas, based on the selection. 

Learn! Take a Class.

Local. My first poetry class was "The ABC's of Children's Poetry" by Heidi Bee Roemer, a Chicago-area poet/author. This four-day workshop reawakened my interest in poetry and kick-started my writing.

Not-so-local. The Highlights Foundation offers a poetry workshop each year. This year it runs April 15 to April 19. I participated in a five-day retreat led by Rebecca Kai Doltich, Alice Schertle, and Susan Peerson. A real "highlight" on my poet's journey! 

Online. I'm saving my pennies to take Renée LaTulippe's "Lyrical Language Lab." The class covers 19 lessons over 4 weeks and aims to pump up your prose with elements of poetry.

Be Inspired! Visit Poetry Blogs.
Blogs challenge me, inspire me, educate me. Some of my favorites include:

The Poem Farm by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
• Poetry for Children by Sylvia Vardell
• The Miss Rumphius Effect by Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt
• Today's Little Ditty by Michelle Barnes
• No Water River by Renée LaTulippe
• Poetry 4 Kids by Children's Poet Laureate, Kenn Nesbitt
• A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt by Penny Parker Klostermann

Step Up to a Challenge!

• RhyPiBoMo -- Created by Angie Karcher. A full month of support and advice for those writing picture books in rhyme. Great fun!

• The March Madness Poetry Competition -- Brainchild of Ed DeCaria. In the spirit of college basketball's March Madness, the competition pits one poet against another. Each is challenged to write a poem that uses a random vocab word and readers vote for the winner in each round. This year's champion, crowned just a few days ago, was Buffy Silverman!

Find Your Tribe! Join.

• Poetry Friday. Every Friday, poets in the Kidlitosphere gather to celebrate poetry with original poems, reviews, and thoughts. Different blogs host, so this is a good way to get to know other poets.

• The Poetry Foundation, based in Chicago, is a national organization that supports poetry. They appoint a Children's Poet Laureate every two years, spotlight new poetry books, and offer a "Poem of the Day".

• On Facebook, the Poetry Advocates for Children & Young Adults promotes and supports kid's poetry.

• Organize a critique group, just for poetry. 
My tribe! Poets Eileen Meyer, Cathy Cronin,
Heidi Roemer, Michelle Schaub, and me 

So there you have it. My list of poetry resources. 

What's on your list, GROG readers?


  1. Perfect resources for this month! Thanks for so many great recommendations! I'm off to buy some books now...

  2. Really thorough info Patty! Thanks for the plug too! Lol

    1. RhyPiBoMo is the place for me to be this month, Angie! So happy you organized it.

  3. What a great list of resources all in one place. Thanks, Patty!

  4. Patricia, a fantastic roundup! I totally forgot that I wanted to get KNOCK AT A STAR, so I just put it in my cart. Did you see that X.J. Kennedy just won the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize? Very cool. I must second Livingston's Poem-Making as a wonderful base for poets young and old. If you're in the market for a more nitty-gritty book on meter, I just got Timothy Steele's ALL THE FUN'S IN HOW YOU SAY A THING: AN EXPLANATION OF METER AND VERSIFICATION. It looks slightly frightening, but it's a great resource on metrical variation.

    Thank you for mentioning TLLL. I would love to see you in class! :)

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    2. Thanks for the book suggestion, Renee. And that's wonderful news about X.J. Kennedy! Wow! Hope to see you in a class soon. :)

    3. I promise you, Patricia, that every penny saved will be worth it! Renee's class is fabulous! Thanks for the great information!

  5. Great post, Patty! Here's one more source of a daily dose of poetry: I signed up to receive a poem a day from the amazing Jane Yolen. She has an e-mail list that she sends a new, often first draft, poem to -- every single morning. Fun and inspiring.

    1. Excellent resource, Christy! I get Jane Yolen's poems every day, too. She is amazing.

  6. What a wonderful, rich post. Thanks for this!

    1. So glad it is helpful, Rosi. Happy rhyming to you!

  7. Thanks for these suggestions. The books are new ones to me. I just got Mary Oliver's _A Poetry Handbook_ and Ted Kooer's _The Poetry Home Repair Manual_," based on recommendations, & I look forward to digging in. Books aimed at students, but helpful especially for beginners are Ralph Fletcher's _Poetry Matters_, Margriet Ruurs' _The Power of Poems_, David L. Harrison's _Using the Power of Poetry_, and (humbly) my own _Rhymes & Reasons: Librarians & Teachers Using Poetry to Foster Literacy.

    1. Wonderful list of additional books to check out, Jane. Thanks for adding to the resources!

  8. Thank you for the incentive to get some of these resources and consider a class or two, Patricia :)

    1. Resources are so helpful to keep me on track, Charlotte. I'm easily led off-course...

  9. Patricia,
    Thanks so much for including A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt in your wonderful, informative post.
    A few years ago, I put a page on my website with poetry resources to help teachers in the classroom. I taught for 26 years and thought this might be helpful. Plus I was teaching a workshop for teachers and this was handy way for me to give them a list of resources. I haven't kept it up really well, but there is a lot of great information if you'd like to have a gander. Here's the link:
    Thanks again :-)

  10. Replies
    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Stephanie. Happy rhyming!

  11. Patricia, What a wonderful list. I just sent it to someone who asked for such a thing...just today! Thank you tons. And thank you for including The Poem Farm - I am honored to be included. I love subscribing to The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor and receiving daily poems in my inbox. Happy National Poetry Month! Off to share this. xo

    1. Thanks, Amy! I've been following The Poem Farm since your poem-a-day challenge -- you are such an inspiration. :)

  12. Appreciations, Pat!

    This poetry month basket of goodness overfloweth.

    I need to read more X.J. Kennedy - glad for the reminder. And the Highlights Workshop & local poetry class for poem-making for children sound nourishing.

    Good luck with the pennies for Renee's online course.

    Here are some other titles readers my like

    WRITE A POEM STEP BY STEP by JoAnn Early Macken, like many guides for young writers, this works for older writers too
    PASS THE POETRY PLEASE, by Lee Bennett Hopkins
    and anything poetry by the great Kathi Appelt.

    See you at some of the links you mentioned, especially in this bizee poetry month.

  13. Thank you, Patty, for sharing many outstanding poetry resources. My poetry book bin includes one of the books you shared How to Write Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko. I would like to add another resource: Rhyming Dictionary By Sue Young. The forward is by Paul B. Janeczko.

  14. Hi Patricia, I just discovered this post, and wanted to thank you for including Today's Little Ditty on your list of poetry blog go-to's. Turns out we share many sources of inspiration! I lean on Paul Janeczko's poetry books all the time.