Tregolwyn Book Reviews

How to Write Modern Poetry

Science fiction and fantasy reading
Photo Album
Featured Publishers
How to use this site
Index of Authors and Titles
Reviews: Fiction
Reviews: Non-Fiction
Reviews: Poetry
Our Reviewers
Contact Us
Read an extract
Interview with CORNELIA GOLNA
SPECIAL FEATURE: Clare Potter comments...
Success Stories

by Geoff Tims


 ISBN 1 84481 101 8 (e-book), 1 84481 102 6 (CD)

Cool Publications, 2004 

100 pp, PDF Format

Retail price 4.99 (e-book), 11.99 (CD)


Modern poetry is a literary minefield. Its seeming disregard for all the obvious rules of more traditional poetry forms has often made it an easy target for critics who found it hard to understand and a difficult arena for budding poets who struggled to adequately find the form needed to bring their thoughts to life.

 As a journalist I’m wary of How-to books because they tend to marginalise the true effort required to create anything that’s remotely adequate, let alone good. Their prescriptive approach tends to favour a “now we do this and next we’ll do that-“ formula that rarely works.

 All of which makes Geoff Tims’ How to Write Modern Poetry the exception that proves the rule. A working poet who never stops seeking ways to improve his craft, Tims’ book has forsaken the formulaic approach on How-to do anything for a compressed masterclass on the writing of modern poetry.

 Opening with ‘What is Modern Poetry’ Tims analyses not just the genre but the form itself. He makes the point that good poetry is good poetry irrespective of style and draws real parallels between the different art forms, asking the reader to first look inside themselves before they think of putting pen to paper.

 As you’d expect in a How-to book there is the inevitable step-by-step approach that, in this case, feels entirely natural, chatty and unforced. The exercises at the end of each chapter have a specific aim: to bring out the poet inside the reader. To sensitise us to the world around us, to make us aware of the potent power of words and to teach us the secrets of the craft of modern poetry that successful poets find out about the hard way.

 Taking the unusual, and very brave, tactic of developing a poem alongside the reader Geoff Tims explores what exactly makes a poem great and then goes on to give examples, create crisis points the budding poet must resolve, and offer advice.

 Watching the poem develop is akin to taking an apprenticeship beside a master craftsman. The digital format of the book makes it perfect for skipping around through all its bookmarks and, for once, I was able to read three chapters on the train and do the exercises without having to suffer the supercilious glances of fellow travellers prepared to make judgement about anyone trying to be a poet.

 Geoff Tims’ book is thoroughly exhaustive of its subject as only a How-to book can be and passionately personal in its arguments as you’d expect from a poet who’s very much at the centre of his art. It is also tremendously helpful, full of insight, occasionally witty and always gentle in its guidance. If all How-to books were like this the genre itself would see a revival beyond anyone’s expectations and…there would be fewer badly-attempted poems about. 


Open Book

Review by Hugo Dell