10 books like How to Grow Your Own Poem

By Kate Clanchy,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like How to Grow Your Own Poem. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Lamott recalls when her ten-year-old brother put off a three-month project on birds until the night before it was due. She describes him as immobilized. Their father sagely advised, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Although these soothing words were indisputably not directed towards me, I cannot overstate how regularly they calm me in moments of thinly disguised hysteria. The metaphor is brilliant, plus I adore birds. Lamott frequently reminds the reader how quality writing requires—demands—full attention. So does deep reading. So does deep living. While this book is primarily about writing, it is equally about life—nestled atop a solid foundation of singletasking.

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Bird by Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An essential volume for generations of writers young and old. The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this modern classic will continue to spark creative minds for years to come. Anne Lamott is "a warm, generous, and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps" (Los Angeles Times). 

“Superb writing advice…. Hilarious, helpful, and provocative.” —The New York Times Book Review

For a quarter century, more than a million readers—scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities—have been inspired by Anne Lamott’s hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom…


On Writers And Writing

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of On Writers And Writing

Atwood’s reputation speaks for itself, but what I love about this book is that it’s derived from a series of six lectures that she gave at Cambridge University in 2000. And because lectures are delivered in person it’s like having a conversation (albeit one-way) with their writer. This is a witty, occasionally self-deprecating, erudite but also pragmatic and accessible book, and all in her inimitable voice. You discover about the process of Atwood’s own writing but also that of other writers, so while it’s quite personal, it’s also wide-ranging and inclusive.

On Writers And Writing

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Writers And Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the author of THE HANDMAID'S TALE and ALIAS GRACE

What is the role of the writer? Prophet? High Priest of Art? Court Jester? Or witness to the real world? Looking back on her own childhood and the development of her writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors which writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain - or excuse! - their activities, looking at what costumes they have seen fit to assume, what roles they have chosen to play. In her final chapter she takes up the challenge of the book's title: if a writer is to be…


The Writer's Voice

By A. Alvarez,

Book cover of The Writer's Voice

Talking of voice, finding your writer’s voice lies in the confidence that comes from effort and application. Alvarez was a poet, writer, critic, and poetry editor at The Observer newspaper in the 1960s, where he nourished the writing of Sylvia Plath and others. When you think of your favourite writers it’s usually their voice that grabs and sustains interest and trying to figure out your own, as a writer, can take time. Playing with other voices, trying them on for size, making one your own, is something Alvarez explores through his own insights about the work of Plath, Yeats, Jean Rhys, Freud, and others.

The Writer's Voice

By A. Alvarez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Writer's Voice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'For a writer, voice is a problem that never lets you go, and I have thought about it for as long as I can remember - if for no other reason than that a writer doesn't properly begin until he has a voice of his own.' What makes good writing good? In his brilliant new book, Al Alvarez argues that it is the development of the voice - voice as distinct from style - that makes a writer great. A poet as well as a critic, Al Alvarez approaches his subject both as an informed observer and an insider. Here…


The Art of Description

By Mark Doty,

Book cover of The Art of Description: World Into Word

“It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see.” So begins the poet Doty’s short book on the art of description. The art of something implies subtlety and skill, and Doty explores ideas around uncertainty, figuration, attentiveness, and those habits of conscious observation and specificity that improve description. If this sounds dull it is not, because there’s a subjectivity about Doty’s own prose that draws you in. What’s more (and I’m going to cheat a little here) if it turns out that you love Doty’s prose as I do, there’s another book by him, Still Life With Oysters and Lemon about the painting by Jan Davidz de Heem on view at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, that will enchant you further.

The Art of Description

By Mark Doty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Description as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How a writer moves perception to image to written world is at the heart of any literary work. Here, celebrated writer and poet Mark Doty closely examines this essential literary technique and how it varies from writer to writer. Drawing on the sensory experience found in the poems of Blake, Whitman, Bishop and others, Doty gives an insight into this essential craft. Written in clear chapter essays, his book is an invaluable resource for writers, students, critics and anyone with an interest in the art of literature.


Finding What You Didn't Lose

By John Fox,

Book cover of Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making

This is one of those gems that can easily get lost in the literary shuffle. Poet-teacher John Fox gets into the craft of writing poetry in Finding What You Didn’t Lose, but it’s not one of those dry books that will get you all tangled up worrying about your iambic pentameters. Instead, he takes you on a beautiful journey, showing how such useful tools as imagery, sound, metaphor, and rhythm can help you express yourself. Quotes and poetry excerpts round out the rich content of this book.

Finding What You Didn't Lose

By John Fox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding What You Didn't Lose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Spider's Thread

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

In the 1980s and 1990s, Keith Holyoak and I collaborated on a series of articles and books about analogy, which is the underpinning of complex metaphors. His new book is a delightfully insightful discussion of metaphors in poetry, drawing not only on his deep knowledge of cognitive psychology but also on his experience as a highly published poet. Through analysis of great poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and many others, he illuminates how metaphors contribute to beautiful poems and to creativity in general.  

The Spider's Thread

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spider's Thread as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An examination of metaphor in poetry as a microcosm of the human imagination—a way to understand the mechanisms of creativity.

In The Spider's Thread, Keith Holyoak looks at metaphor as a microcosm of the creative imagination. Holyoak, a psychologist and poet, draws on the perspectives of thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics—and from the sciences—psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists. He begins each chapter with a poem—by poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda—and then widens the discussion to broader notions of metaphor…


This Craft of Verse

By Jorge Luis Borges,

Book cover of This Craft of Verse

If you love Borges, and thought you’d read everything he wrote, this is the book for you—a collection of his “lost lectures,” delivered at Harvard in 1967-68 and finally published in 2000. And if you want to hear the actual voice of a creative genius, as if risen from the dead, the recordings are also available. Best known for his intricate short stories and essays, Borges was also—perhaps foremost—a poet. As he puts it in the book, “The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.” Starting from the creation of poems, Borges explores the creation of metaphors, meaning, and life’s irreducible mystery.

This Craft of Verse

By Jorge Luis Borges,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Craft of Verse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Available in cloth, paper, or audio CD

Through a twist of fate that the author of Labyrinths himself would have relished, these lost lectures given in English at Harvard in 1967-1968 by Jorge Luis Borges return to us now, a recovered tale of a life-long love affair with literature and the English language. Transcribed from tapes only recently discovered, This Craft of Verse captures the cadences, candor, wit, and remarkable erudition of one of the most extraordinary and enduring literary voices of the twentieth century. In its wide-ranging commentary and exquisite insights, the book stands as a deeply personal yet…


Booked

By Karen Swallow Prior,

Book cover of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

One summer I took this book with me on vacation as one of my beach reads. I could not put it down. Dr. Prior shares her favorite books from childhood to adulthood and how each book influenced her. Because she is a college literature teacher, Karen knows how to share the ins and outs of a book—its plot as well as its literary elements and themes—while also intertwining her own life story as part of the discussion of the book. Since I love learning about themes, metaphors, and character development, reading these things was a treat for me. She discussed Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Gerard Manly Hopkins and John Donne, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and others. 

Booked

By Karen Swallow Prior,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Booked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A life of books. A life of soul. Professor Karen Swallow Prior poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can't tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte's Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.


The Gift

By Hafiz, Daniel Ladinsky,

Book cover of The Gift

This book is based on Middle Eastern poems from the 1300s which cuddle up close to you and turn you around, such that the world will never be the same again. You find yourself illuminated in new ways with every poem. How amazing to be so intimate with a great being from so far in the past.

The Gift

By Hafiz, Daniel Ladinsky,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chosen by author Elizabeth Gilbert as one of her ten favorite books, Daniel Ladinsky’s extraordinary renderings of 250 unforgettable lyrical poems by Hafiz, one of the greatest Sufi poets of all time

More than any other Persian poet—even Rumi—Hafiz expanded the mystical, healing dimensions of poetry. Because his poems were often ecstatic love songs from God to his beloved world, many have called Hafiz the “Invisible Tongue.” Indeed, Daniel Ladinsky has said that his work with Hafiz is an attempt to do the impossible: to render Light into words—to make the Luminous Resonance of God tangible to our finite senses.…


No Other Life

By Gary Young,

Book cover of No Other Life

No Other Life combines three of Gary Young’s books into one volume. There is such unique style and quiet beauty to Young’s work. I am truly inspired by it. He has a knack for capturing the extraordinary in the mundane in brief but deep prose poems that grip the soul. 

Young was one of my professors in college and was a driving force for why I pursued a creative writing degree and chose to continue to write after graduating. His work will always hold a special place in my nature-loving creative heart.

No Other Life

By Gary Young,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Other Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No Other Life gathers in a single volume two earlier books by Gary Young, Days and the award-winning Braver Deeds, with the final book in his trilogy, If He Had. Utilizing a radically brief prose poem that in its spare lucidity leaves after images burned into the readers imagination, Young weaves a pattern of compelling and often harrowing correspondences that Ethan Paquin described in Quarterly West as an exploration of thresholds, of levels of human endurance. Although every poem stands as an independent utterance, each book suggests a discrete poetic unit, and the entire trilogy can be read as a…


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