Book Review: Poetry in the Making by Ted Hughes

POETRY IN THE MAKING: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching

Poetry in the Making is the work of a practising writer sharing the art of writing poetry with children. I was delighted to find this book on the shelves of Gleebooks at Blackheath, NSW while home in Australia at the end of 2017. For although the book is directed at young people aged 10-14 years, it’s been the perfect lesson book for me (a non-academic person) writing simple poems about the objects which enter my viewfinder.

One of the things I’ve loved most about the book is not being forced  to read the thing chapter-and-page by linear-page, instead flipping through its fine collection of poems while grabbing snippets about writing animals, landscapes, and the human experience.

The book sits on the bench next to my writing desk and sometimes finds its way into my hand before I’m to start a freelance writing assignment. I think I could read CHAPTER FOUR: Learning to Think everyday of my life and still find something new to apply to my writing practice.

Just as some people are bustling about all the time, getting things done, while others just sit around — so it is inside people’s minds — some brains are battling and working and remembering and puzzling things over all the time, or much of the time, and other brains are just lying down snoring and occasionally turning over.

I love this quote from the opening page of Chapter 4  and still laughing as I visualise my brain rolling over, trying to wake itself up. There are some simple concentration exercises  (to get that brain battling and puzzling) and the whole lesson is illustrated beautifully by Wallace Steven’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird on page 70.

In the Writing Landscapes chapter, Mr Hughes believes that poems are often better than the actual landscapes they represent because they intensify and purify the feelings that come over us when we are  in nature.

Apart from Learning to Think, Capturing Animals, and Writing Landscapes, there are also lessons on Wind and Weather, Writing about People, Writing a Novel, and interestingly  — channeling the emotion you feel towards relatives (especially the horrible ones) into a book character. The chapter Meet My Folks is a wonderful exercise in directing the imagination.

So this book get’s 5 stars from me — someone who wants to write more poetry and improve my writing skills across all genres.