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Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry


Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry Cover

ISBN13: 9781582975573
ISBN10: 1582975574
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The Red-Crested Poet, October 12, 2010 (view all comments by The Red-Crested Poet)
The cover first drew me to this book, but the wisdom inside has held me to it. I had been toying with the idea of writing poetry again after a decades-long hiatus, and WTLP was the catalyst that started me writing immediately and almost non-stop. The book is easy to read, the exercises are challenging enough to hold one's interest, the examples are inspirational. Others here have written longer and more beautifully (poetically) than I. If you are looking for a book to help you write your own poetry, buy Sage Cohen's book. It will do the job -- beautifully, poetically, and better than the rest of the others.
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Jessica Varin, September 7, 2009 (view all comments by Jessica Varin)
Writing the Life Poetic is a very comprehensive guide to life as a poet. In eighty short chapters, Sage Cohen breaks down everything from nurturing creativity to publishing. As a young, emerging poet, I appreciate the multiple writing prompts and advice included in each chapter. Sage Cohen covers technique with plenty of examples from established poets. This book was a good resource for both finding and creating new poetry. The cover is beautiful; the layout is accessible and exciting. I highly recommend this book to writers and poets at any stage in their writing.
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thenightwriter, August 13, 2009 (view all comments by thenightwriter)
The first thing I noticed about Writing the Life Poetic when I opened up my package was the beautiful cover. Already, before even opening the book up to the first page, my senses were heightened by the brilliant designs and colors. When I ran my fingers over the cover of the book I was pleasantly surprised by the raised designs (especially on the back cover) and the raised text. Just holding the book was a poetic experience. Then I opened it – Wow! I was struck by the contrast between the bright white paper, the text, the colors, and the illustrations. Without reading a word my creative mind had already been given a jumpstart.

I was a closet poet for nearly twenty years and when I finally had the courage to submit some poetry for critique I realized how much I did not know about poetry. I was discouraged and even considered not writing poetry anymore because it all seemed too complicated and then I saw an advertisement in Writer’s Digest for this book. I thought I would give it a try and I am so glad that I did. My reading of Writing the Life Poetic coincided with a 30-day poetry writing regimen that I participated in and I had the chance to incorporate much of Sage Cohen’s advice with great results.

Her instructions are clear and concise and so easy to understand even for a beginner like me. The chapters are short but provide a wealth of information and encouragement. I read one chapter per day and this easily fit into my hectic schedule. Eighty days later I was not only writing more poetically, I was living more poetically. What Cohen has taught me through these beautiful pages has helped me in all of my writing: poetry, personal essays, and memoir. She has taught me that there is poetry to be found in even the most minute and mundane of things; in the things that might be overlooked even discarded otherwise. She has taught me that it is the awareness of the world around me and the writing of that awareness that is so important even if at first glance I do not consider what I write to be “top quality”.

I recommend this book to beginner and experienced poets and writers alike. Beginners will get a guide book on how to embrace the poetry within and around them. Those with experience will get a fresh perspective on reading and writing poetry and expand their creative minds to higher levels. I also recommend Cohen’s book of poetry, Like the Heart, the World, which will, after reading, unequivocally convince you that she knows of what she writes.

Sage Cohen also has a Writing the Life Poetic blog that you can subscribe to and it is a must read for all the fans of her book. It will provide you with a continuation of the same fresh poetic view of life that is seen within the pages of this book.
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Shawn Sorensen, April 29, 2009 (view all comments by Shawn Sorensen)
While reading Sage Cohen's guide to creating poetry, Writing the Life Poetic, I saw a bridge open up before me, crossing the Willamette River into western Portland. I was on one side, ruminating about my literary insecurities, my smooth poems and the many that, to put it politely, needed work (read: jackhammer and saw) and what my writing voice could become. On the other side of the bridge was Cohen, waving at me to come across, where all the words I had put to paper and would put to paper were floating around, like the trees going up the hills of Forest Park, where in fact an entire poetry community was waiting for me like an welcoming, empowering Verizon Wireless "It's the Network" commercial (but without the two year contract). I found a quote in the middle of Sage Cohen's book that I kept returning to:

"In a culture where we like things black and white, right and wrong, poetry says YES. What if there were no right or wrong - only poetry? What if everything we could possibly dream up were acceptable? Fabulous? Enough? Poetry can be your own personal oasis of invention, where you can do no wrong."

What Cohen strives for is no less an encouraging, powerful, limitless manifesto to poets and writers everywhere. Instructional without being text-bookish, inspirational without being preachy, suggestive without being demanding, Writing the Life Poetic goes beyond the assemblage of quality how-to poetry books to become a work of art - with endless rows of blank canvasses on either side for the reader's own brush strokes.

I was most impressed by Cohen's adroit ability to turn so many poetic stereotypes on their head and give them a welcome burst of light and warmth. Not knowing everything about writing or other poets gives one an endless set of possibilities. Not making much money from poetry means one is free of editorial trimmings a novelist, for example, often gets. Having writer's block means the writer can sit there, quiet down, let everything just be as it is - and let the inspiration to create slowly seep back in. Sets of poetry rules - and comments about one's work from other poets - can be used or discarded freely.

Above all: write. Cohen provides numerous questions this reader felt encouraged to answer, exercises that were fun and instructive to complete, and a plethora of great poems as examples. One of the book's eighty short chapters is entitled "Finders Keepers: Found Poems." Cohen describes getting one of those irritating spam mass emails and turning it into an opportunity to write a poem slightly outside of her usual boundaries and with a lot of creative vocabulary. I found myself trying this exercise while shopping in a Japanese grocery store. Words found on the shelves and in my mind: "origami action", "rice counter" and my personal favorite, "elite banana", all grist for a future poem.

It's also rare to have a book address the need to calm down and trust one's own voice. Without the need for approval, a poet can produce more work - and find additional outlets for it. "Authenticity is a kind of homelessness I am learning to live inside of", Cohen writes. When the work pours forth, the craft is honed and shaped, empowering the person and their creations. Cohen again:

"I have been writing poems and thinking of each one as practice.... Every poem you write benefits from the poems that came before it."

Adam Kirsh, in a recent issue of the journal Poetry, asserts that poets mainly write for recognition. Cohen's book suggests many more reasons to create this kind of art. At its very least, poetry helps us smooth out the rougher edges of our character and get closer to finding out who we really are. Cohen also suggests the outlets provided by blogs, open mics, classes, critique groups, literary journals, websites and kind words for friends, all with instructions and encouragement.

Part professor, part companion and part Zen practitioner, Writing the Life Poetic walks along with us and increases the directions, dimensions and paths we can take while writing meaning into our lives. It is a monumental addition to the writing community, whose ranks should swell and build from this amazing treatise on art and all of its possibilities.

Shawn Sorensen is a published, award-winning poet whose work can be viewed at, Winter 2008 edition. He just won 1st place in the Spring 2009 Oregon State Poetry Association Spring 2009 contest, New Poets category. Dozens more of his complete book reviews - including 17 for poetry titles - can be found at

This review first appeared in the Oregon Writers Colony Colonygram, March/April 2009 edition.
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Product Details

Cohen, Sage
Writer's Digest Books
Poetry -- Authorship.
Creative writing
Reference-Words Phrases and Language
Publication Date:
8.30x5.50x.80 in. .90 lbs.

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Reference » Writing » Poetry

Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry Used Trade Paper
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Product details 262 pages Writers Digest Books - English 9781582975573 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Ever wonder if you have what it takes to write a poem? Sage Cohen says, "Yes, you can!" Cohen, a Portland-based teacher and author of the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World, insists that poetry is available to anyone and everyone. She offers a rich, creative adventure that will help you tune into the poetry of your life — and get it down on the page. Filled with whimsical illustrations, ample wisdom, and plenty of sample poems from the great poets everywhere, Writing the Life Poetic is a fun, unpretentious, and user-friendly resource for poets and writers of all levels. We've tried it; we like it; and we think you will, too!

"Synopsis" by , No one needs an advanced degree in creative writing to reap the rewards of poetry. This invitation to creatives from all backgrounds puts poetry back into the hands of the people--not because they are aspiring to become the poet laureate of the United States--but because poetry is one of the great pleasures in life. Writing the Life Poetic helps anyone build skills and confidence in their poetic voice. While key craft issues are addressed, the approach is casual and friendly, rather than formal and academic.
"Synopsis" by , Sage Cohen is an award-winning poet with a BA from Brown University and an MA in creative writing from New York University. The author of the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World, Sage has published widely including three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing. She has

taught poetry at universities, hospitals and writing conferences as well as online. Sage's blog,, continues the conversation started in Writing the Life Poetic.

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