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This is disgusting. Truly."" Such was one response to the questionnaire that English prof Turner sent to 100 ""established"" American poets, asking them to choose a recent poem and discuss how it grew from an idea into a publishable final draft. Disgusting? Well, the ""checklist"" which Turner enclosed (""Is the persona in the poem yourself, part of yourself, other?"") is certainly foully pedantic, and half of her presumed mailing list (including Lowell, Updike, Ginsberg, Bishop, Rich, Dickey, and Robert Penn Warren) was too busy or turned off to comply. But Kumin, Wilbur, Eberhart, Levertov, and 46 others were less offended, and their poems are here, along with first drafts, fourth drafts, notebook entries, stories of inspiration or writer's block, essays on metaphor and diction, confessions, credos, musings, lectures (""See also my essay. . ."")--all indicating how ready and willing most writers are to talk about their craft. ""Whom do you visualize as your reader?"" brings answers ranging from a list of names to ""I don't"" to a poem: ""my mother/ who suspected me/ of such thoughts/ all along."" And ""How did the poem start?"" reveals both airy and down-to-earth motivations (""The poem started as an attempt to confront directly. . . the contradiction resulting from being fond of animals. . . and dining on them""). These dissections of the creative process may drain off much of the mystery vital to most poetry, but they are refreshingly jargon-free and unethereal. Editor Turner's introduction, attempting to collect ""the principles of contemporary poetics,"" is less untainted, but she writes vigorously and sets this book up handsomely, supplying biographical notes on her verbose but fascinating correspondents.

Pub Date: May 6th, 1977
Publisher: McKay