Judith Beveridge reviews 'Creating Poetry' by Ron Pretty

Judith Beveridge reviews 'Creating Poetry' by Ron Pretty

Creating Poetry

by Ron Pretty

Pitt Street Poetry, $32 pb, 180 pp, 9781922080561

This updated and revised edition of Creating Poetry – first published by Edward Arnold in 1987, and then by Five Islands Press in 2001 – is one of few poetry guidebooks written by an Australian poet. One of its pleasing features is that it uses the work of Australian poets, including John Tranter, Geoff Page, Kevin Brophy, Meredith Wattison, Judith Wright, and many others. The final chapter gives a sobering account of the neglect of poetry by the media, readers, commercial publishers, and most booksellers in this country, as well as the way that poetry, in schools and universities, for the last few decades, has been thrown into a general mix of texts limited to post-structural linguistic readings. As Pretty says, 'If poets took all of this at face value, they might be inclined to slash their wrists – or at least become accountants.' But the overall tenor of the book is a celebration of the power of poetry, its ability to help both reader and writer to uncover meanings and to develop and enjoy a passionate relationship with language.

One of the difficulties of writing a book such as this is finding the right pitch for the intended audience. This is very much a manual for beginning poets and their teachers. Pretty is careful to set out guidelines for teachers. The book aims to help those who have some resistance and reluctance in approaching poetry. In this regard, Creating Poetry may be of less value for more innovative and creative teachers and students who have a better working knowledge of poetry. But for those whose experience is limited, it is a rich resource and takes pains to present poetry in ways that are straightforward and enjoyable.

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Judith Beveridge

Judith Beveridge

Judith Beveridge won the 2015 Peter Porter Poetry Prize. Her latest poetry publications are Devadatta’s Poems and Hook and Eye, which was published by George Braziller for the US market. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Sydney.

Published in March 2016, no. 379

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