Reference Books & Such

I thought I’d share a few of the references that I go back to when I hit a roadblock, need a kick in the butt, or just want to immerse myself in poetry or literature in general.  Take it or leave it.

In no specific order:

poemcrazy_cover_smallPoemcrazy: freeing your life with words, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge — Not so much a book about how to write poetry as a how-to on freeing your inner nutty self so poetry can happen.






How to Read a Poem

How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, by Edward Hirsch —  Before you can go from throwing poems together to writing great poems, you have to read great poems and have your heart tuned by great poems.  This is the basic premise of Hirsch’s book.  It is one of my favorite poetry reads!  I often come away with a poem knitting in my brain.  His prose is poetic.  His take on many poems is astounding.  I don’t always agree with him.  You don’t have to agree with his analyses, either.


Mary Oliver Handbook

A Poetry Handbook, by Mary Oliver  INFINITELY accessible, and eminently readable!  A wealth of necessary information for someone wanting to learn the craft.





Mary Oliver Dance

Rules for the Dance, by Mary Oliver — For those of us who remain metrically-challenged, this is essential reading.  It not only can help overcome meter dysfunction (note the italicized “can”), but it potentially can bring you to the place where you enjoy reading and writing metric, rhyming poems.  I know, right?




Drury Poems

Creating Poetry, by John Drury — I like to think of this as a Physician’s Desk Reference for poets (my mom was an RN, if that helps).  What ails you?  Look here.  Been given a form prescription (prompt) and want to know how it will interact with your personal style, and potential side-effects; look it up.




Mary Kinzie

A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, by Mary Kinzie  Okay.  So, fair warning: this is not a book you pick up and read chapter-by-chapter.  I read this in small, measured helpings… and then reach for the Advil… or a glass of port.  Then I grab pen and paper, because that little dose has gotten me into that writing thing that won’t let me sleep.  If you get through this, you are on your way into that MFA everyone is trying to get you to take.



Writing in Film  

finding-forresterFinding Forrester — “Poonch th’ dahm quiche!”   You’ll understand when you get to this line in the movie.  It’s not a how-to movie; it’s a why do we write movie… for some.






Romancing the Stone — “Joan Wilder?!?”  Okay… I know it’s not a realistic treatise about what it’s like to be a writer (if it was she’d be searching for tissue with only half a page written!).  You make your list, I’ll make mine.  Besides, I’ve always wanted my own version of “The Little Burrow”!

This will only make sense if you’ve seen the movie in the last decade… or you retain things in your Polaroid brain.



A River Runs Through It — “Half as long….  Again; half as long….  Good. Now throw it away.”  A film to make you wince if you have had dealings with editors; a film to prep you for what it’s like to have an editor.  Only, in this case, the editor is the father of a young boy who wants to become a writer.  The editor is also a Scottish-Presbyterian minister who approaches words like gold — which, in fact, they are!

This also is just a beautifully filmed visual feast.


My lists are not exhaustive.  Feel free to share some of your treasured references & such.

11 thoughts on “Reference Books & Such

  1. Wonderful resources, Charley! Thank you, thank you, thank you! (Extra credit for putting Poemcrazy at the top – that’s my poet’s bible.) I’ll spread the word on this little corner you’ve created and be back, with coffee in hand, for some browsing.


  2. thank you for sharing these – I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants as it were and need to go to the drawing board again- starting with the first Mary Oliver methinks
    “”I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.” ~ MO


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