POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge
In honor of National Poetry Month, the first book I re-read was Susan G. Wooldridge’s POEMCRAZY.
Just picking up the book brought back positive memories. The first time I read it, I’d found it at the New York Public Library’s branch at 41st and 5th. Not the building with the lions, Patience and Fortitude; the building across the street, with the books you can check out.
I worked on Broadway at the time, and loved it; however, I felt that so many hours in the theatre meant the rest of my world narrowed, and I craved poetry.
I read most of the book in Central Park over the coming weeks, loving it. Living a block off Times Square, Central Park was only about 15 blocks away, not a far walk at all on a good day.
I liked the book so much I hunted for a copy of my own, which I found at Strand Bookstore. (If you’ve never been to Strand, visit. I still get many of my research books for projects from them online. I’ve been a customer since 1982).
Re-reading the book, I remembered my initial enjoyment, and layered on renewed appreciation.
She combines anecdotes and exercises. Much of the book seems naive at this point, with our cynicism and market-driven orientation. But Susan makes sense of the world through poems — not just words, but words that create vivid images.
Two of my favorite of her devices are the “wordpool” and the “word bowl”. Tossing words whose sounds and meanings are evocative into a container where you can pull them as you need them — even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking for in the moment — is a wonderful device.
In fact, I’m going to use a physical “word bowl” in one of the novels I’m currently writing. A bowl holding actual words (I’m going to do it a bit more elaborately than Susan does. for the purposes of the novel), grounds my character and makes her feel safe. Knowing she can reach into a bowl and pull out something that will spark ideas –what could be more grounding for a writer?
I’m no good at writing poetry (I can use the precision of language in scripts and in some prose, but paring it down to poem is not a skill I’ve achieved), but I love to read it and I love to read about it.
If you enjoy poetry, as a reader or a writer, I highly recommend this book.
POEMCRAZY by Susan G. Wooldridge. New York: Clarkson Potter Press. 1996.