Book Review: The Daily Poet
Often I can’t clear my brain out unless I write a poem. Poetry has always been my best form of therapy, followed quickly by the run. Since I’m not running lately due to aging of the human body (otherwise called sciatica and its accompanying muscle tension), I rely much more on words that tumble into a rhythmic pattern onto the screen before me. Sometimes I can’t get to my work, the action items that pay the bills, until I get a poem un-lodged from my brain. Some days, this is harder than it seems. Fortunately, I have a new tool to help my hands type the poem: The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Writing Prompts For Your Writing Practice by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano.
This past summer, I took an all-day poetry workshop led by Agodon and another poet named Susan Rich. I hadn’t taken a poetry class in roughly 20 years, forgetting that seeking structure from other poets would lend freshness to my poetry. The day was a new angle into poetry writing, and I knew I needed to keep seeking inspiration and writing prompts from outside sources. On the mornings I can’t seem to dive into the writing, I open up The Daily Poet.
The Daily Poet is elegant in its simplicity. There is a short writing prompt for every single day of the year. The gorgeous font announcing the day makes poetry-writing time feel richer. And the prompt makes starting a poem so much easier. I have been writing poems for as long as I could write sentences, and now I am 43. When I look back on what I have written, so many of the same themes repeat themselves constantly. Having a prompt doesn’t always mean I will write about a new theme, but having a prompt does mean I frame these themes in a new way. This is refreshing.
The prompts give me a new starting point, and that is always the hardest starting point for poetry writing. Yes, there are prompts all over the internet and in a few books that line my office bookshelves. What I like about The Daily Poet is the brevity and the playfulness of each prompt. Some poetry exercise books have prompts that are pages long. My eyes glaze over during the third paragraph of instructions. The prompts here are sometimes two sentences long, often four sentences long, or perhaps six sentences long.
Better yet, The Daily Poet opens with a two-page introduction letter that gives the reader six pieces of helpful advice. Did you know there is no right way to complete the exercise? You can take the prompt and play with it, making your own prompt from their prompt. Begin on any day. Have fun. It’s essentially permission to enjoy your poetry writing session, and to use the book to make the writing easier. Since I have taken a class from Agodon, I can hear her voice telling me these instructions, giving me permission to really enjoy the words and to make the prompts useful for me.
Take the prompt for October 27th, which is called “Ms. Plath and Her Fruit.” The four lines of instructions say to use “the first line of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Blackberrying” and use it for the first line or title of your poem: “Nobody in the lane,and nothing, nothing but blackberries.” Or you can chance the name of the fruit to another noun, and write a poem about the noun. The last line of the prompt reads: “For extra credit, include the word “blackberries” in the last line of the poem or reference Sylvia Plath in the title.” Here is the poem I wrote from the exercise:
Nobody in the lane
and nothing, nothing but spilled coffee.
At my most fallible
I complain, complain with no
reason at my disposal
just a heavy head
mourning the warm
liquid lost to the
(copyright NSA 2013)
Can you tell that this was a hard morning at my house? Having fun with my dreadful coffee spill made my morning more livable, giving me room for laughter. Thank you Agodon and Silano for The Daily Poet. I love this book since writing poetry (for me) affects my entire day. As soon as I get those words on the page, I can breathe deeper and easier, and I really like that!
Buy The Daily Poet:
Available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/TheDailyPoet
And for your Kindle: http://bit.ly/DailyPoetKindle