Reading Response #6

Select one of the assigned readings this week (either  Kooser  chapters or Poetry Pack #2), and post a 500-word response below. Be sure to also make a comment on a classmate's response for full credit.

27 thoughts on “Reading Response #6

  1. Andrew Lange

    I found the second half of Kooser’s work particularly enjoyable. More specifically, three things called to me. First, his continued use of imagery to describe scenes. As someone who dabbles in writing myself, I enjoy having fun with the imagery; start with some boring scene and see just how witty and detailed I can make it, particularly if it will elicit a knowing chuckle from the reader. (I once had great fun with describing the drive between Fairbanks, Alaska and North Pole, Alaska, for instance, right down to the cracks in the pavement and the vehicle being driven at the time). Another thing I enjoyed about his writing was getting to “know” Kooser himself as a writer; the more I read into his work the better mental picture of Kooser himself I gained. Finally, some of his advice about submitting materials to periodicals was relevant to my own situation.

    Kooser used some rather amusing imagery to describe some oddball or otherwise rather mundane scenes. For instance, one of his more shocking ones was the beaker of urine left in the closet from the night before, the morning after the subject’s matter passed and how it how holds different value but, in the end, should be simply dumped outside in the weeds. Similarly, another such example he uses is of a clothes washer; two different units, one smelling fresh and new like (insert brand of preferred laundry detergent here), another with a burned out motor gathering dusk in a dark basement corner. Kooser uses many such examples to describe the validity of particular word choice.

    Another example Kooser cited of imagery concerned a light bulb’s rapidly fading afterglow upon being switched off. The example used includes comparing the bulb’s filament’s ever-diminishing glow to a tablet dissolving in water. However, Kooser is also quite adamant about word choice; specifically, when comparing one thing to another, the comparison only works if both items being compared have something equivalent; there is absolutely nothing about a light bulb fizzes and dissolves in the truest sense of the word. Another such example he uses is when an old camera is compared to a car battery in terms of shape and color, but smaller. He even goes so far as to explain how a carrying analogy may or may not be appropriate depending whether or not the car battery had a carrying handle (some do, some do not).

    Finally, as mentioned above briefly, I very much enjoyed Kooser’s advice to those who may wish to submit their work to some type of periodical, such as a magazine. I found this particularly relevant to my own situation as I myself was asked to write for a particular magazine not long ago. I have submitted a rough draft of an article, but since it only publishes three or four times each year it will likely be some time before I hear back. While Kooser describes how often most editors have some unpleasant words for most poets when it comes to their work needing revision, I would have to say that mine was a completely different situation. In my case, one of the appropriate decision-makers invited me to write for this particular publication after seeing my work elsewhere, and when I sent them a draft they absolutely loved it.

    1. T Gordon

      Wow, I would love to read your piece about the drive between Fairbanks and North Pole — what a neat idea!

      I also really enjoyed this part of Kooser’s work. He had some great examples of how the crafting of poetry really forces you to pay attention to the tiniest of details around you. I have a hard time paying attention to the details of my day to day life, so it was a good reminder to seek inspiration in the mundane. I hope to apply these observations to my poetry pieces that are in progress.

      I am glad to hear that you had a positive experience in submitting work to a periodical; that is certainly encouraging for our classmates that hope to do the same, and hopefully, this class will give you more well-received pieces to submit!

  2. Katherine Whelchel

    The poems in the second poetry pack were disturbing to the core. Each one relayed a sad situation, that held a deeper pain within each word. The first poem “Daddy” was a peek into the past. The writer described her father, all he did to her and others, and his blackened heart. It was not a story though; it was an expression of her deep disgust. I was left feeling like I had sat with her for hours listening to stories of her father, yet it was just a poem of potent emotion. Her description was ocean deep. The way she described her father through sharing her own soul responses, left the entire poem with a blackish hue. Like I said, I felt disturbed.
    The second poem, “The Year We Blew Up the Whale – Florence, OR” also left me feeling disturbed, but it was different. It felt almost like a reversal from the first poem. The writer wrote about events that all happened within a year, and through that, I was given a view of the town of Florence and the deep emotions of the people who live there. The many observations of the writer all lead to a feeling that this town is full of broken people. I get the sense that it is a small town; each event seemed monumental and noticed by many people.
    It is interesting that both poems left me with the same emotion, but in my eyes, they were so different. The way the first was led by emotion and the second by situation was a great display of the different ways of communicating the motivations behind each poem. Throughout this class, I think I have become more aware of the different paths you can take to achieve a certain result. When sitting down with a passion or motivation, I could take many different avenues of expression to fully communicate it with words. There are probably many more paths I have not even encountered yet.
    I also love that the writers are pictured. It gives an extra insight into the poems. There is so much you can learn from studying a persons face or posture, and in the case of the “Daddy” poem, the girl had a haunting look in her eyes. I felt like I could see her coming up with the words of the poem as I read. In regards to the second poem, I felt sorry for the writer. He looked so kind in his picture; it made me sad to think that he lived somewhere so shrouded in painful situations.

    1. Ben Knapp

      I agree that the poems where totally disturbing! I think I general I prefer happier poems, and these two are no exception. I guess people can write this way if they want to, but I wish they would try to write more positively. Although I didn’t like the overall tone, I agree that the poems were both powerful and well written.

    2. Monica Gallagher

      I think “The Year We Blew Up the Whale- Florence, OR” highlighted the fact that all of these similar events can happen in any community, even the ones that we think are not shrouded in painful situations. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, that the general public does not know about and that a good portion would not want to know about. It makes me wonder what his background was and why he seemed so interested in these events. That was the hometown of one of our classmates, Sierra, and she said that she remembers hearing about some of the events, so maybe they were widely known. It would be interesting to take a really picturesque town and look at records of that town to show contrast of the events that go on after dark, hardened, gritty and realistic, but interesting. Definitely not the limelight that many want to focus on, I just think it would be a stark juxtaposition, especially referencing actual events. Even though, it was not my favorite poem, that’s what I appreciated about it, the contrast and the reality.

  3. T Gordon

    I knew that reading the first poem in Poetry Pack #2, Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” would be quite depressing and dark. After all, I know of Plath’s eventual demise after a lifetime of depression and beautiful, haunting writing. I see that Plath’s relationship with her father was a very fraught one; this was clearly communicated despite my confusion in some of her word choice. She uses very personal language throughout the poem, referencing places and things that only someone of German or at the very least, European ancestry, would fully know. I had to look several things up to see exactly what she meant. Spread throughout are both blatant and subtle references to the Holocaust, German words, and words describing the German military during World War II.
    Plath makes it clear that she felt inferior to her father, literally and figuratively ‘unpure’ as she sees herself as a victim, a descendant of gypsies and compares herself to Jewish people sent to death camps during the reign of Nazi Germany. She describes him as hateful and oppressive, yet, expresses her complicated desire to return to him when she tried to kill herself at 20 years old. She also mentions this desire to please and to have his approval with the line that “Every woman adores a Fascist.”
    Plath mentions that she survived her suicide attempt at 20 as the people around her glued her back together. By mentioning the idea of getting glued together, she seems to be saying that she wasn’t quite put back together after this–not fully. After all, a glue job is never as structurally sound as the product before it is broken.
    Plath moved on from her father to a man like her father when she states that she “made a model” of him with a man she similarly describes as “black,” as in full of darkness and devoid of good, and with a “Meinkampf look,” again evoking the imagery of the Holocaust and fascism. Despite the foreboding look of this man, she said “I do, I do,” and married him anyway. I wonder if she realized that she was marrying someone so similar to her father prior to the marriage, or if this is something she only realized years later after the marriage would end. ‘
    This marriage brought her years of pain. She seems to think that her father would have enjoyed this knowledge, and mentions that her husband drank her blood like a vampire for “seven years,” in case her father was interested to know. She relieves him of his duty of haunting her life by assuring him that he can “lie back now,” and rest in his grave. The man she unfortunately married took her father’s place of oppression, but she has ridden of him now as well.
    The ending of the poem is particularly upsetting as Plath just comes out and says that she is through with her father and that she thinks that he is a “bastard.” By the time she finished this poem, any lingering positive thoughts and memories of her father were long gone. It is impossible for me to relate to this poem, so all I can do is react.

  4. Sierra Russell-McCollum

    From reading the title of the first poem, “Daddy”- by Syvia Plath, and not a single word after it, I thought it was going to be a cute uplifting poem. But man was I wrong. From the first sentence, I knew I was in for something quite different. I wasn’t a big fan of the beginning, to me it was a lot of nonsense, but that could also be what makes her poems unique and beautiful in a way. So I do respect it. But as I read on the darker it gets. I know this poem has to be about her father and how they do not have the strongest relationship. And I can relate to that, my biological Dad never did anything for me. But I her situation I know she went through something worse. My Dad left, and I’m thankful for that. From the poem, I believe her Dad stuck around and helped ruin her in a way. The comparisons she uses to describe her father is heartbreaking. For example, the German shoulders and Hitler. It’s sad that she felt like a Jew compared to him in that situation.
    I know I am not the best at poetry and understanding it but this poem was easy to understand, which made me enjoy it, even though it was dark. Plath did a good job explaining a story without really explaining it.

    The next was called the poem “The Year We Blew Up the Whale- Florence OR” by Nick Lantz. I really enjoyed this poem. Oregon is the town I was born and raised in. So hearing all the cities he was talking about took me down a trip to memory lane. Portland was my exploring area, I lived ten minutes away. And Florence and Lincoln City are the beaches I regularly go to. When you are in the towns you can still hear people talking about the events he talks about. For example, in Florence OR when the blew up the whale. I’m pretty sure there is still whale bones that can be found laying on the beach. People love talking about that event in that town. It’s one of the only exciting things that actually happened there.

    This has to be one of my favorite poems I’ve read in this class due to the fact that it has to do with the state I grew up in and love so much. I never read anything about my state, but I’m glad there’s a poem about it. Even if it shows the crazy side of Oregon. This poem was also disturbing in a way, but not to the degree to bug me. I grew up knowing these stories. To be honest I was distracted by the fact that it was about my hometown to really notice the creepiness.
    Overall I feel that both these authors have unique writing styles, but their poems capture the disturbing scenery in such a good way. “Daddy” was the type of poem to haunt you in your sleep. While “The Year We Blew Up the Whale- Florence OR” was a type of poem to show you the creepy side of a place that can look peaceful. To show the reader that beautiful places can come with messed up people.

    1. Monica Gallagher

      I’m so excited to hear that these events actually happened, because I was curious about that as I was reading the “The Year We Blew Up the Whale-Florence OR”. Not that I’m happy at all to know that these events happened, I just thought, this seems very factual and I too have lived there. I was not born and raised, but I lived there for about a year and I recognized the places he was talking about. I could picture the scenes and became more palpable and realistic. My stomach sort of went away for a moment when he mentioned the shot to the face in the 12th stanza. I stopped and had to reread it, because I was curious what city he was referencing as the location. It definitely means something different when you have first hand experience with something in a piece of writing that you’re reading. It makes you pay attention more, which was a useful tool in his poem. The names that he references in the poem, can’t be the actual names in the events though, right? One thing that was a little annoying for me was the repeat of “In that same year . . .”, I get what he was going for, but it was a little monotonous for me, even though it was only mentioned 5 times, is that too much? It probably depends on what you’re trying to develop in the poem, but those are just a few of my thoughts. I would be curious to know if he’s written more about that location.

  5. Aubri Stogsdill

    Honestly, I’m not sure what to think about the poem “Daddy” by Plath. It is clear that her relationship with her father was far from ideal- the descriptions she uses communicate that he was a harsh, hard man. In the poem, she says, “Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.” as she refers to her father as a black shoe, someone that kept her out of the sun, away from the light. She says her father was “Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,” clearly not a light-hearted guy, he is a large burden on her back. And he has an elevated view of himself. In the next section, Plath shows that she didn’t really know her father- though she tried to know him. She WANTED to know him- but couldn’t seem to. She talks about her tongue being stuck in her mouth.
    At the same time, she hates him. She feels so different from her German father that she compares herself to a jew- someone that he likely would have hated and condemned. There is clearly a distaste for Germans in her mouth- every German looked like her father. In her mind, she has become a jew- someone her father might have desired to exterminate. The fact that she equates herself to a jew while her father is a German is chilling. Clearly, riding on the hatred of Hitler, her father is so estranged from her emotionally. Her father has killed her heart, bit it in two- she believes him to be an evil man. Yet, in her heart is the desire to have a father. She hates herself, and tries to kill herself, but then realizes in her is that need for a father. She rebuilds a replica of her father- only to destroy it. The pain here is so real and raw. She hates her father because he hurt her, but also because he was a crappy father- and because of this she missed out on what it meant to have a father. She even joins into the hatred of her father with the villagers who also knew it was him.. who knew he was this evil person.

    Well, I still hate poetry and this poem was no exception. I guess I just don’t understand why it has to be a mystery- why not just say it straight and how it is?

    1. Corbin Knapp

      Hi Aubri!
      I agree that this week’s poems were a little dark , but don’t give up on poetry just yet! There are light hearted poems that in my opinion are better examples of what poetry should be like. An example of a poet that uses the sometimes confusing nature of poems for the sole purpose of making someone laugh is Shel Silverstein. His poems can sometimes be a little weird , but he uses poetry to connect with the reader and make them laugh. If you don’t like the kind of poems like “Daddy” then maybe look up some poems by him to cheer you up.

  6. Leah Rego

    “A poem must be something more than an anecdote arranged in lines.” I rather enjoyed when Kooser wrote this, not being a fan of anecdotal poetry myself. I think that poetry should go beyond the telling of an every incident, there’s enough of that in everyday conversation, it should take its reader beyond the surface of daily life. I think that Kooser makes some very good points in his chapter “Working with Detail” in that it is the small unexpected details that really bring the reader a sense of the author ‘s believability. Especially in this day of instant information it is overly easy for poets and authors to insert commonly recognizable details of places they are not personally familiar, and without those little details that can’t be looked up by anyone with internet access, there can be a lack of true depth. The reader can have difficulty ‘seeing’ the the authors viewpoint if they are presented with a flat description. It’s much like the difference between looking at a staged picture of a place versus looking at a video of the same place.

  7. Aundrea Pierce


    I had to laugh at your ending statement; my husband has the same view. I’m terrible at deciphering poetry, and I feel like an alien reading them. Even though it frustrates me, I still find poetry a talented way of expressing emotions. However, if it’s not “mickey moused” I won’t comprehend the majority of the lines. I feel you did a good job breaking apart “Daddy” (you did better than me!) Most times I feel like if the reader hasn’t gone through the same events and struggle as the poet, then they’re not going to be able to relate and decode their message.

  8. Corbin Knapp

    This weeks poetry pack included some interesting and disturbing poems. “Daddy” by Syvia Plath is a disturbing poem that makes references to Nazi Germany in the poem. The other poem “The Year We Blew Up the Whale – Florence, OR” by Nick Lantz is not as dark as “Daddy” but still has some parts that make you gasp. Overall this poetry pack shows some of the darker sides of poetry.

    “Daddy” is a rather dark poem that I interpret as her view of her father and Germany at the time of Hitler. She even makes some references to Hitler in her poem, “I have always been scared of you, With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. And your neat mustache And your Aryan eye, bright blue.” I think in this part she is comparing her father to Hitler and how she feels like (in her father’s view) a Jew. “Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew.” She references several of the Nazi concentration camps that were used in world war two comparing herself to a Jew that her father hates. This poem is very twisted, and I have to admit, I did not enjoy it as much as other poems I have read.

    “The Year We Blew Up the Whale – Florence OR” has a slightly lighter tone to it then “Daddy” but it still has some darker parts that might take place in smaller towns, but don’t get much notice. There are some rather powerful parts in this poem such as a section where the last person that spoke a language died and her estranged son went to the county clinic the next morning with his mouth full of blood, and a filet knife in his pocket. How I interpreted this is that the son cut out his tongue after his mother died so the language would die with him. This part of the poem was rather dark.

    The style of writing in his poem and the story reminds me of something you might see on the evening news. Something disturbing, but also sad at the same time. In fact, all the incidents that Lantz describes in his poem are similar to the type of stories you might hear about through the national media. Something that registers with you, but you cant believe happened in your town. I can relate to this poem, because disturbing events like the ones in the poem sometimes happen in Fairbanks as well. Thankfully, actually blowing up the whale is something I have never seen.

    This was a slightly darker poetry pack than last week’s, and it definitely has examples of more “deep“ poems that are darker than what I might normally think about poetry. Lantz’s poem was not as dark as “Daddy” and I could relate to it. I do not completely enjoy this kind of poetry, but I think they are good examples of the darker side of this genre.

    Works Cited
    Poetry Pack #2, English 270, Christie Hinrichs, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Accessed 23 February 2018. Class handout.

  9. Ben Knapp

    This week’s poetry was enjoyable to read, if not a little confusing at places. Both poems seemed to use heavy symbolism, and the first was very different from the second. They both have their own unique traits and were each powerful in their own way.

    The first poem, “Daddy”, was clearly about the holocaust and WW2. It is unclear whether or not the author actually spent time in a concentration camp, but the author definitely lived in fear of the Nazis. The poem also constantly refers to someone the author calls “Daddy”. It becomes clear early in the poem that the author does not have very warm feelings towards “Daddy”, such as when she writes, “Daddy, I have had to kill you”.

    Later, it becomes clear to the reader that “Daddy” was German, and influenced how the author viewed Germans. This is made clear by the line, “I thought every German was you.” This lends the reader to the belief that “Daddy” was a Nazi.

    The author also includes passages that imply that the author could be considered Jewish, which could be a source of conflict if “Daddy” was actually her father. When she says “The vampire who said he was you,” perhaps she is referring to how her father seemed to be a different man in the rise of Nazi Germany. The poem can be a bit puzzling, but overall the use of metaphor and symbolism resulted in an effective poem.

    The second poem, “The Year We Blew Up the Whale — Florence, OR”, was much more confusing for me. My overall impression was of a series of random events, ending in a climax of blowing up a dead whale. Is this a true story, or only a product of the author’s imagination? Are the characters fictional, or is there such a place where all this happened in one year? These details may interest the reader, but perhaps the author felt that they where unnecessary, and that is why the reader has been left in the dark.

    All the events seem to involve some kind of tragedy, and perhaps the point of the poem is how the narrators tried to take out some of the pent up feelings on the whale. However, this is only conjecture, and the meaning of the poem could be something completely different, or the poem could have no meaning at all.

    The poem has an almost cold, emotionless tone to it, if not with a touch of dark humor. The poem visits shocking and horrible events, but without reaction from the narrator, leaving the reader to feel that he has become oblivious to the horror of what has happened. Perhaps the narrator has already experienced the events of the poems, and has become inured to the tragedy and revulsion.

    Overall, the poems were disquieting, but good, in an unnerving kind of way. They may not have been happy, but that is not what the narrators intended. Not every poem has to have the same tone, although the reader is free to choose what kind he prefers.

    Works Cited

    Poetry Pack #2, English 270, Christie Hinrichs, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Accessed 23 February 2018. Class handout.

    1. Naimy Schommer

      I like how you described the way the speaker doesn’t have an obvious reaction to events they SHOULD have a reaction to in “The Year We Blew Up The Whale – Florence, OR”. I like the phrasing of your last paragraph on that, “Perhaps the narrator…has become inured to the tragedy and revulsion”.

    2. Cassidy Kramer

      I also had a lot of questions about the poem “The Year We Blew Up the Whale”. I was very confused as of why they would want to blow up a whale. Anyways, thank you for your insight on the poems!

  10. Naimy Schommer

    Daddy-Sylvia Plath

    Form: This poem is set in free verse and has 16 quintains.

    Rhyme: no formal rhyme scheme, but there are lots of internal and end rhymes throughout the poem, specifically with the “oo” sound. (See line line1, 55-56, 63-64). This holds the poem together and makes the reading cohesive. The consistent reference to a specific should also helps relate ideas to each other and helps the poem flow as a single line of thought.

    Rhythm: Mostly iambic verse, this causes the poem to carry a vaguely sing-song, nursery rhyme type of feel. This only adds to the uncomfortability felt when she speaks about wanting to kill her father and then join him in the grave.

    My Analysis:
    This poem is obviously set during WWII, or shortly afterwards. While this does play into a few different interpretations of the poem, I read this as more of a cautionary poem of young girls’ idolization of her father. The speaker is obviously addressing her dad, which she is fond of because she addresses him as “Daddy”, a term of endearment. But she is torn. She makes a lot of references to feeling Jewish–I have to wonder if her mother was Jewish and her father was a Nazi. She, being half of each, would naturally feel disjointed living in Europe during WWII. The 10th stanza highlights this theory.
    “Not God but a swastika” – she knows her father is powerful, and is starting to come to terms with the fact that its not a holy power.
    “So black no sky could squeak through” – fully corrupted
    “Every woman adores a Fascist,/ the boot in the face, the brute/brute heart of a brute like you.” – this could be read sarcastically, or it could support the theory of the speaker’s mother bring Jewish. In the next stanza, the speaker says “not/any less the black man who//bit my pretty red heart in two.” – this could again, symbolize the loyalty of her heart (blood) to two contrasting lifestyle systems.
    I think the speaker might have a little of an Electra complex (the female version of an Oedipus complex). I think that she idolizes her father, thinks of him briefly as a god, before she sees him as truly evil. The Electra complex typically implies a feeling of sexual possession, and when using it to describe children, usually means turning on one of the parents to claim possession of the other. I don’t think that applies in this case–there’s no mention of the speaker feeling any kind of sexual frustration with her father other than that of confinement in the first stanza. We don’t know for sure how old the speaker is, but I get the sense that she’s still pre-pubescent because she doesn’t have a clear reason why her father is as evil as she grows to perceive him–just that he is. For a while she seems very protective of him as well, which is something young daughters tend to do with their fathers.

    1. Michelle Cordova

      I really enjoyed reading your response to “Daddy,” and think you brought up a really good question, one that I definitely didn’t think of, but makes a lot of sense! Her mother being Jewish is definitely a possibility and would help us to understand why her father was so hard on her. She talks about feeling like a Jew, but doesn’t speak of her mother, so her feelings could very well be real, as she is finally learning who she really is. Great post!

  11. Michelle Cordova

    The poem “Daddy” by Silvia Plath was dark and a little creepy. However, it was raw, and I’m sure, a difficult thing for her to write about. She starts the poem off by referring to her father as “black shoe” and herself as the one living in his big shadow, scared of doing anything, even sneezing, in his presence. She goes on to say that she used to pray for her father, assuming this was before he died, possibly hoping that they could mend their relationship and have one that was more loving. She talks about thinking every German was her father, a seemingly cruel, heartless Nazi sporting a swastika and herself as a Jew because she always felt scared to be around him. “An engine, an engine chuffing me off like a Jew” is a powerful statement that expresses the hate she feels her father has for her, as if she was his prisoner who was being taken to a concentration camp. She uses some pretty strong words to describe her father, calling him a brute, devil, and bastard, then changes the scene and begins talking about her husband, a blood thirsty vampire, who modeled her father, or maybe even Hitler, as she says he had a Mein Kamph (Hitler’s autobiographical book) look.

    “The Year of the Whale” by Nick Lantz was perhaps my least favorite of the two. It was simply disturbing. He talks of nothing but hatred and darkness- riots, infertility, death, and retaliation, somehow attempting to make blowing up a whale seem small in comparison to the other atrocious acts that happened throughout the year. After reading the poem, though, I decided to do some digging to see if any, or all, of the scenes were true, and finally realized where Lantz was going with his poem. Blowing up the whale with dynamite and his description of basketball sized chunks landing in the parking lot were, unfortunately, true- a car was even smashed in the process. However, the rest of the poem is fiction. What I do find interesting is the way he connects bad things happening with us feeling free to cause more damage, like a cycle that never ends.

    Both of the poems in Poetry Pack 2 were a bit negative and sad for my liking, and they both took some time for me to interpret. However, I do not feel that they are wrong in any way- as poetry gives us the freedom to write about anything, be it happy, sad, mysterious etc. I appreciate the ways in which we can play with our words and use similes and metaphors to give the overall poem more depth and also combine real life scenarios with fictional ones. Overall, I enjoyed digging deeper into these poems in attempt to find their true meanings, or at least my understanding of them.

    1. Jessica Honebein

      Michelle I would have to agree with you that the poems were sad for my liking as well. Also that it is amazing how expressive we can be in any type of writing, in this case poetry. I think it is amazing how many different ways that one poem can be interpreted and only the author knows the true meaning. Poems, for me, can take me awhile to analyze and actually pick out what the author is trying to portray. I think it is a good point that you make when you say we combine true scenarios with fictional ones, I think that it can add the perfect twist to the poem. I think that poems do carry a since of the author’s imagination, but also giving us a little thread of detail about their life.

  12. Monica Gallagher

    I finished up Kooser’s “The Poetry Home Repair Manual”. He had quite a difference in character compared to Lamott. It was very informative and practical though, in the writing style of poems. His delivery of the material was relatively dry and yet he was very eloquent in his writing at times. I could never fully take him seriously, in that he never seemed completely genuine or confident in his ability. He portrayed himself in this book as more of a teacher rather than an artist. Taking that into consideration as I go on, I have to say he brought up some very helpful points in the way we should look at poetry, both as the reader and the writer or speaker.

    He communicated the importance of writing for others, stepping into the eyes and the ears of the audience so that they are inclusive in the creation of the poem. The chapter, “First Impressions” was insightful and stood out to me when he was speaking about the use of title as a living part of the piece. Another thing that stood out greatly was his brutal honesty about the overly self-involved writers of poetry, how that can turn into self-loathing and how that can sometimes deter a reader. Understandable, but that’s where the heart is, but I do get that there needs to be a little balance. It for sure, was not very hard to determine what his style and view point was on poetry. He highlighted many of the same theme of poems throughout the book, including his own work, which I was somewhat put off by.

    With the amount of poems I read throughout the book, I started to see what my preferences were and got a first-hand experience of what it would be like for the reader consuming a piece of work that was less than inspiring for them. I love poetry, so to read numbers upon numbers of poems that I don’t like, really started to turn me off from poetry completely. This alone brought to light the importance of utilizing your work properly by serving it up accordingly to the audience you feel would appreciate it the most. The author touched base on this when he was speaking about publishing work and finding journals that you, yourself appreciate, because more or likely they will in turn appreciate your poems. Birds of a feather flock together, ya know. Makes sense.

    Though I understand the importance of attempting to reach a wide audience of readers to impact as many people as possible, it seems like you would never want to lose the integrity of work. If it was organically in the cards for that writer to create a wide-reaching piece of work, then by all means, go for it! But, for the rest of us that are more specific and unique and in turn have a smaller audience, then I don’t think we should stretch our writing to try and fit into everyone’s box. I appreciate what he was communicating when he was speaking about these certain aspects of writing poetry and I took away some parts of it and equaled it into balanced work, thought I think unbalanced work can be phenomenal and is many times a stand out. I just was semi-disappointed with his rigid portrayal of poetry, seeing as it is the greatest type of free form writing out there. I mean, the book has a chapter, “Don’t Worry About the Rules”, then he goes on to talk about rules throughout the whole book. I feel like I’m ranting at this point, and I do believe I have been spoiled by Lamott.

    P.S. That meme is hilarious.

  13. Jessica Honebein

    Jessica Honebein- Reading Response #6

    As I finish up Kooser’s “The Poetry Home Repair Manual” I feel as if I am almost leaving a professor’s office. He has the voice of someone (that is knowledgeable, like a professor) but also gives well thought out advice when help is needed. From the beginning of the book he gave advice on the purpose of poetry all the way to his last chapter about what to do when you have “finished” a poem. In this last chapter, Relax and Wait, he suggests that this last step that should be taken is also one hardest when you begin writing poetry. Kooser says that after the writer feels the poem is complete they should set it aside and come back with a completely clear head in the future. I found it interested that he suggested writing groups as well. Then goes on to explain the good qualities to look for in a writing group like good criticisms and encouragement.

    I really liked how throughout the book Kooser enlightened the reader a little about his life. On page 140 he says “Poetry has enriched my life in many ways…” then goes on to tell the reader a little about him growing up and a little insight on the poems he grew to love (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s on this page for example). I think that it helped me stay in tune with what he was really trying to point out, although I still did enjoy the poems throughout the book. I think that the poems throughout the book did help to supplement Kooser’s words as well. I could see that reading poems could inspire yourself to branch off and begin to put thoughts on paper to form a poem as well.

    I think one of my favorite chapters in his book is “Fine-tuning Metaphors and Similes.” In this chapter he notes in the very beginning that metaphors and similes should simply “be used to clarify a poem.” I absolutely love this advice because then the true meaning of what your trying to say is not going to get bogged down by words. Metaphors convey authority while similes convey causality, or in other words they both have a certain place to be. Using metaphors and similes can be tricky but if you think of it as them both having their own personality, like Kooser said, it can be easier to decide which one is best to use for the situation and message that you are attempting to convey.

    I think that I am walking away with a better understanding of the poetry writing process and this book will help me when the inevitable question of, “What now?” pops into my head. I think that the advice he gives throughout the book is honestly very practical. Not only is it practical but it is easy to read along with and actually follow what the author is wanting you to take from the book. It could really help someone if they are just beginning and wanting/needing help with certain aspects of their writing.

    1. Caitlyn Williams

      Hey Jessica,
      I agree! Kooser’s voice in this reminds of a professor/ mentor as well! He’s got all this knowledge on poetry, yet he still finds ways to put helpful advice in. Ah, I really enjoyed “Fine-Tuning Metaphors and similes” This book has helped me better understand poetry and all the different aspects it has. I’m definitely walking away from this reading feeling more confident in poetry!

  14. Aundrea Pierce

    After finishing the Kooser book, I feel more confident tackling poetry! He chooses a great title for his novel because his writing does feel like it’s a “home repair” toolkit. I’m still not a big fan of poetry but I do have a more sense of appreciation and respect for it, thanks to Kooser’s wisdom and outlook. In the writing from memory chapter he discusses the increase of young poets writing anecdotes. Anecdotes are short little stories usually told from a personal account or incident. This may be far-fetched thinking on my part, but I feel in this high paced and impatient society we live in today, short stories or more appealing to readers; especially short stories a reader can feel and relate to (we all just want to belong after all). I like how he builds a poem out of the core anecdote in the “Hayfork”. I learn best when instructors break down their point in a step by step manner; I like to see what the work looks like when a word is changed, or the entire stanza is rearranged. Furthermore, I was always confused by the sound choice at the end of poems like “ker-chunk!” at end of Hayfork. “Ker-chunk is the cheap way out of a story, the easy way.” (Kooser,2017) I found this a bit funny because I can vision myself getting frustrated while writing a poem and doing everything in my power not to write “Ker-chunk” (the end!).
    I’m a canine lover so of course, I adored “Searchers” by D. Nurkse on page 96. This is a perfect example of the kind of poems I enjoy reading, clear, smooth, and easy to decipher. Pieces like this poem and Robert Bly’s “The Dead Seal Near Mcclure’s Beach” put more emphasizes on the distinction between writing from imagination versus writing from experience. I learned from Lamott’s book that readers don’t enjoy being lied to, so word choice is just as crucial, if not more crucial, when writing poetry. I believed Nurkes and Bly had to have been there in the moment to form such precise and genuine words in their writing.
    I’ve been thinking about this whole being in the moment experience and forming similes a lot lately; it’s fun, I love them! Today I was at the mall eating lunch with my family and thinking; those blenders at Jamba juice are echoing through the mall like haunted moans from ghost! I think I can have so much fun with similes because they’re so quick and easy to whip up in my head. I have two kids under 7, so to even think my own thoughts throughout my day is an accomplishment for me. Simile’s are short and sweet, yet they leave fingerprints in your mind that are hard to erase. I’ll never hear a blender in the mall again without thinking of ghost moaning. Therefore, my favorite section from Kooser was Fine-Tuning Metaphor’s and Similes. He breaks down the difference between the two, giving them both a different shade of light for the reader to know when and how to turn off and on. “Metaphors set up precise identities between the two halves of a comparison, while similes are less demanding” (Kooser, 2017) When writing, its best to write about what the two halves have in common, and Kooser was effective in emphasizing this important aspect when forming a piece. “November” by Linda Pastan shows a great display of bringing two halves together when she writes about the tree and the magician.
    In summary, I appreciated Kooser’s work just as much as Lamott’s. I had to open my mind more to poetry and I feel the way Kooser wrote his book along with the useful tools; from adverbs to rhyming, is a must read for beginner poets. Doesn’t he look like an adorable, kind old man in his picture on the back of the book? I’d love to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea with him, wouldn’t you?

    Kooser, Ted. The Poetry Home Repair Manual. University of Nebraska Press, 2007

  15. Mekayla

    I read through the Poetry-Pack 2 a few times before really knowing what to think of the poems, especially “Daddy,” by Sylvia Plath. “The Year We Blew Up The Whale – Florence, OR,” by Nick Lantz literally hit close to home. The poem took place in the various cities I remember from my childhood in Oregon, so I felt initially connected in that sense. Beyond that though, I was struck by the the events described in this poem, and the sense of loss and sadness in every single one. By the end of the poem I found myself crying, but wanting to read it again.

    I’ve noticed that a theme in a lot of responses on this post is how awful sad poetry can be. We all want to read something optimistic, something that makes us tear up with nostalgia and joy, and I feel like that’s how a lot of us want to live life; In constant search for happiness, fulfillment, and love. But life is so much more than that. There is loss, and pain, and unfortunate circumstances that every single person finds themselves a victim of. These authors have taken something tragic, and created something beautiful. Instead of trying to move past and ignore the negative aspects of life, they’ve chosen to embrace these things, and create a channel of expression for them. I think this is really inspiring, and that sort of strength should be admired.

    Nick Lantz in his poem “The Year We Blew Up The Whale – Florence, OR,” not only brought attention to sad events that happened, but the idea that while we’re off living our lives, being happy, others are going through life-changing, and sometimes horrific, experiences. I think that one of the more important aspects of humanity is recognizing the pain of others, even in our happiness. This recognition is important to our society.

    I think that “Daddy” could be about Sylvia Plath’s own personal plight with her father. She uses heavy imagery and symbolism to paint him as not only a dark vilain, looming and authoritative, but also as the figure that she’s always respected and admired. Her father wasn’t necessarily a Nazi, or a Vampire, or even a god, but it’s clear that she held him on a pedestal for most of her life, even after his death. She wants to cut ties with this idea that she had of her father, and the effect that he continued to have on her, and by doing this, she must recognize that he wasn’t necessarily the great man the she thought he was. She has to cut her father’s memory out from her life so that she can move on from the constraints and the pain that his looming presence, and then overwhelming loss had on her.

  16. Caitlyn Williams

    Kooser’s way of writing this manual really makes a difference. His examples of anecdotes in this reading has taught me that anecdotes can be used in poems, but a poems shouldn’t just be a story. It needs deeper meaning in order to be considered good poetry. Kooser also writes about how the ending of a poem shouldn’t be an easy end, it should leave the reader with a thought that is an artful expression. He also writes about how the story is the material, and that you must do something to the material to make it poetry. Anecdotes are anecdotes, you must transform anecdotes to make them poetry.

    So far, I’ve liked all the advice Kooser has given through this manual. It may seem a bit practical, but the author uses examples and different wording to make it easier to understand. He writes about how imagination and memory are key in writing vivid poems. He writes about how often generalization is used, and how details make any work, especially poems, more compelling and interesting.

    I really liked chapter 10, Controlling Effects through Careful Choices. This chapter stood out to me because Kooser writes about how various nouns bring a reader various associations. This shows the connection in poetry, and I admire that. I’ve never written a poem in my life, but knowing that simple descriptive nouns can impact the way a reader interpret the poem. The nouns you choose and the verbs make the voice of the poem. Not only the noun and the verb, you have to have personal description, and a tone. A mood if you will.

    The author also talks about how verbs are a big part of poetry. Actions along with descriptions make for a good visualization of what’s happening in a poem. He also writes about how poets use the white space creatively. The white space creates power to the last word in the stanza, or it doesn’t depending on if you executed it correctly. He also writes about the way certain wording could transform the tone of the poetry. I found this interesting because there are so many words, which one will capture the moment perfectly? What tone will I want my poems to have? How will I make this a collection?

    The chapter on metaphors and similes also captured my attention. The way an author compares two things in a poem shows how alike they were. Or how close they are in description. I really appreciated learning about sensory details as well. The way an object or a person is described makes the object or person show in a different light. Overall, descriptions are very important in poetry, it sucks the reader in, and keeps them in to enjoy the ride.

    An important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that poems can be written in any emotion, about any emotion, and the reader should ultimately feel the emotion. Emotion flows through vivid descriptions, and makes poetry even more fun to read. When you get a connection to a poem, savor that connection. Poetry is all about communication and connection through creative expression. Poetry can be clever, and cleverness makes a captivating poem.
    I liked this manual on poetry, I think I will read it over once more to fully understand poetry. I’m interested in writing poetry, and this book has helped me understand the various aspects of poetry. From the noun to the verb, the description to comparison, and the overall communication poetry has to offer.

  17. Cassidy Kramer

    After I read the two poems in Poetry Pack #2, I was honestly very confused. I did understand some parts of them, but not all of it. For example, in the first poem “Daddy” written by Syvia Plath, I was expecting something nice, and refreshing. I did not get what I wanted. I didn’t really understand the poem through parts of it, like the beginning until it says, “barely daring to breathe or achoo.” Right when I read that part, I could picture the type of dad she had. A very strict father. It doesn’t seem like he was necessarily strict like a parent, who is strict for the good of their child, but the type of strict where it is their personality. How they were raised up. It also makes sense considering the time-period they were in. It had to be hard on everyone. I did not understand most of the poem. She uses a lot of her own tongue, not understandable to others outside of her country and era. Although, I believe that it makes it beautiful. Obviously speaking in one’s own tongue will not translate to others clearly. I think that it is what makes it unique to her. I like when writers use their own tongue in their pieces.
    The second poem was interesting and disturbing. “The Year We Blew Up the Whale” by Florence OR reflects on the events that a small town will endure. I think it also reflects how small towns know everything about everything. While reading it, I could just hear the people talking about what has happened. New exciting things to highlight their lives. “Did you hear about Pamela Reese? Yeah, she heard she can’t have kids, so now she is hoarding.” “Did you hear that Ambrose Hecklin’s only son got ran over by a pickup truck? What a tragedy.” It seems like Florence OR basically turned small town gossips into a poem, and honestly, I like it. I also live in a small town, so I know what it is like. However, I believe rural Alaskan towns are a lot different than towns in the Lower 48. But what do I know right? The gossip seems the same. I do not understand why they blew up the whale. It sounds crazy to me, and crazy disrespectful to the animal. Like when Florence OR says, “So when the dead whale washed up on our beach, of course we tried to blow it up.” “Of course we tried to blow it up”? Is that a common thing that people in the Lower 48 do? I had a lot of questions while reading this part. I am trying to think of an explanation for why they would do this. Maybe there is no more gossip and they need some excitement? Or all the events of a year in their small town caused them to be angry? Honestly, when I type these questions down, I feel like a child who can’t understand a possibly simple poem. Kooser says in the beginning of his book that some poets try and make their poems complicated, but I think they should make them dimly simple for a beginner poetry reader like me.

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