Monday, 9 July 2018

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

Paul Chowder is a struggling poet (though struggling is a relative term, he seems to find it easy to make a thousand dollars here and there for readings and reviews) who spends most of this novel procrastinating about writing the introduction to an anothology of rhyming poetry and trying to win back his ex, Ros, who left him largely for his failure to complete said introduction.

Along the way Chowder talks about rhyme and rhythm, fashions in poetic style, poets old and new, the value of teaching creative writing. He compares writing poetry to making jewellery:

"You can't alter the nature of a given bead or a given word but you can change which bead you choose and the order in which you string them on their line..... I think I'll do a quadruple rhythm, a love has gone and left me rhythm: one grey green bead and then three other beads of near random colours, and then a grey green bead again".

He also compares creating poetry to gardening, specifically mowing the lawn.

The book is written in a wonderfully natural chatty style, with various observations about people and nature thrown in almost casually. At the same time it packs in a lot of really valuable lessons about how to appreciate and write poetry.

In fact, if you're looking for help and advice for writing poetry I'd recommend adding this to your reading list. Possibly more inspiring than many more formal 'how to write poetry' books and certainly more fun than the vast majority of them.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker, published by Simon and Schuster (2009) 

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