In this episode it is my pleasure to introduce you to two members of our Writerly Love Community, Jennifer Robinson and Candace Webb, and bring you into our book club conversation. We’ve been doing our close craft-book readings for a couple of years now. So, I love bringing you, dear listeners who are not members of the Writerly Love community—yet, into this conversation! (You can always learn more about the community and sign up at

If you want a round-up of all we read before the book we’ll discuss today, check out our super-sized episode #62 when our community facilitator and my co-producer for the podcast, Meli Walker, and I go through seventeen craft books!

Our focus in this conversation is an oldie-but-a-goodie book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.

Listen to learn about how the book changed the way two writers who were newer to poetry even read poems now after reading. I came to writing via poetry and my love of verse, so it’s exciting for me to hear how these writers who started primarily in fiction and creative nonfiction were inspired to delve more into poetry.

Listen for our assessment of who this book is for and what you, dear luminous writer, can glean from it. Our aim is to give you enough of an overview that you will know if it’s a craft guide you want on your own bookshelf.

Resources from the Episode

Transcript for Write, Publish, and Shine Episode 68

Meli Walker, Jennifer Robinson, Candace Webb, Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson:  00:01
Welcome luminous writers to the Write, Publish and Shine podcast. I’m your host, author and literary magazine editor Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication and the journey from emerging writer to published author.
In this episode, it is my pleasure to introduce you to two members of our Writerly Love Community and bring you into our book club conversation. We’ve been doing our close craft-book readings for a couple of years now. So, I love bringing you, dear listeners who are not members of the Writerly Love community—yet, into this conversation! (You can always learn more about the community and sign up at
If you want a round-up of all we read before the book we’ll discuss today, check out our super-sized episode #62 when our community facilitator and my co-producer for the podcast, Meli Walker, and I go through seventeen craft books that we’ve read.
Our focus in this conversation is an oldie-but-a-goodie book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.
Listen to learn about how the book changed the way two writers who were newer to poetry even read poems now after reading. I came to writing via poetry and my love of verse, so it’s exciting for me to hear how these writers who started primarily in fiction and creative nonfiction were inspired to delve more into poetry.
Listen for our assessment of who this book is for and what you, dear luminous writer, can glean from it. Our aim is to give you enough of an overview that you will know if it’s a craft guide you want on your own bookshelf.
So here is Jennifer Robinson and Candace Webb in a conversation we recorded live in our Writerly Love community.
Hello, and welcome, everyone. We are here to talk about the Writerly Love book club read for January and February we’ve been reading it; it feels like a bit longer. But it’s maybe because I’ve had this book for many years as well. So, I’m familiar and sitting with this book for a while. The book that we are reading is called The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry. I’m emphasizing that word pleasures because I think it’s something I want to pick up in our conversation.
A little background is I picked this book up after hitting a bit of a wall with finding a book that would fit our needs for writers who are both seasoned poets and newbies, and also for writing that felt at least somewhat representative of the writers in our community and not too formal. And that was after kind of looking and seeing, oh, surely there has been another book that has come out. Since then it’s going to be ‘the book’ that we need to pick up. I mean, I think there are many different books on poetry, but this one has this enduring quality. It is dated, though it’s from 1997, it has some issues that show its age, which we’re going to get into. But it also has some endearing qualities which we will describe in this chat.
And with me today to discuss this out the lead readers from the Writerly Love community, Jennifer Robinson and Candace Webb, who both were charged with being the main readers for the book and leading the conversation that we had in the community. So, welcome, both of you.
Jennifer Robinson:  03:39
Thank you.
Rachel Thompson:  03:40
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. This is the first time that we are recording our book club chat for both the community we have to always do but also for the podcast for the broader writing community. I guess I want to start with the question just what were your first impressions of the Poet’s Companion? And how did each of you come to this book in the first place?
Jennifer Robinson:  04:02
I had actually started this book many years ago, my mother and I had a little writing club. And so, we were working through some of the prompts. And then it just kind of fell off for us. So that was quite a while ago, but I always knew I wanted to come back to it. And so I was really excited when this was the book club book, because I’ve had that experience with it. And it was a great experience. So, that’s how I came to the book.
Candace Webb:  04:27
Yes, I actually bought it because I was looking into doing poetry at the end of last year. And then it was just sitting there of course, because that’s what I do, I buy books and I don’t always read them. And then when it came up for Book Club books, yes, now I can read them.
Rachel Thompson:  04:42
I am interested that both of you were reading it in the community because as I recall, I also was reading it in a book club and we were doing the exercises together. So, there’s something very community wise about this book.
Jennifer Robinson:  05:10
And my first impression was that it was very accessible. And I think poetry many times for me has not felt that way. And this book allowed really an opening into that world in a way that someone like me, who is not a poet and has not studied poetry could really engage with.
Candace Webb:  05:30
Yeah, I’d taken a poetry class last year, the first time, I mean, I studied science. So I don’t have a background in English or any of this. And I really didn’t know anything about it. And like you, I didn’t find poetry very accessible. But this book, yeah, it wasn’t very dense, I feel like I could go back to it any time and find what I needed. Because it’s not, you know, a 400 page book. And the exercises were super helpful.
Jennifer Robinson:  05:57
Yeah, it’s got these just little short chapters, you can kind of dive in and dive out, you can kind of get as deep into it as you would like, in some ways, like I felt like you could just kind of read it in an easy kind of surface level way, flitting in and out of it, or you could take it really deep, like there’s some opportunities to really do some work on this. So, I appreciated that.
Rachel Thompson:  06:16
When you say that about going deeper, thinking more like the chapters where they illustrate a point. And they’re sort of describing a type of writing, is that what you mean?
Jennifer Robinson:  06:26
I guess I was thinking kind of about the chapter on grammar, where it’s like, you can just kind of skim that and do some of the exercises, and you kind of get a sense of it. Or you could really get into that and learn all about positives and verbal phrases and clauses, and I don’t even know.
But then there was another example, I had too that I really liked, because I love the prompts in this book, I feel like the prompts were really some of the best parts of this book. So, listen to this prompt. So, choose a poet you admire, read at least one book of his or her work and carefully study how this writer uses lines and stanza, then take a draft of one of your own poems and redo the lines and stances as you imagine this writer would. So like, that’s a lot of work if you have the capacity and energy for it. But then there’s another project right underneath, which is to take a short poem by William Carlos Williams, such as the Red Wheelbarrow, and copy the rhythms of his lines, exactly. Substituting your own words. So, that’s like less intensive, but I think you still would get something out of it. And I just found that the book did that throughout where it had these opportunities for like a lot of deeper study. But if you don’t have the time or energy for that, at the moment, you can kind of do the other stuff.
Candace Webb:  07:41
Yeah. And I think they really recognize that too. Because in that grammar chapter, they’re like, okay, now once you finish these appositives, stop, don’t do it. Come back to this later, it’s too much. Their own recognition of that was helpful.
Rachel Thompson:  07:55
The book touches on something that, I guess became invisible to me after a while, but it’s got a nice tone. I mean, I knew Kim Addonizio poetry before I had this book and was a fan of her writing. So, part of what drew me to it. But yeah, there’s such a nice, I don’t know, you do feel like you’re just in the company of poets talking about poetry and, you know, in a very familiar, friendly kind of way.
Jennifer Robinson:  08:18
Can I ask you a question about that, Rachel?
Rachel Thompson:  08:21
Jennifer Robinson:  08:22
Like with the grammar section, for example, how much do we, as aspiring poets, need to know about appositives and noun phrases, and prepositions? Is that really important to study?
Rachel Thompson:  08:34
I have to say I was an English major. And that was what I really enjoyed, it was like, kind of grammar geek stuff. Just revealing a bit of myself here. But yeah, I don’t think so though. I mean, I certainly know a lot of poets who throw grammar out the window, and they’re not interested in the really formal approach to writing. There’s such a variety in the types of poetry that exist in this world that I think the main requirement for poets is interest in something. One of my niche interests happens to be grammar as well, which obviously informs the writing too. But I don’t think it’s a requirement.
Jennifer Robinson:  09:10
I love that the main requirement is interest.
Rachel Thompson:  09:13
Yeah, well, it’s about looking really closely at something I think. You know, we’re talking about some of the exercises there. And I’m curious about if and how the book enriched your poetry writing. I know, Candace, you’ve only recently picked it up and read it through our book club month, although we did have the poetry quest that we’d worked on together too during that time. And did it introduce you to new forms or ideas apart from appositives and grammar nerd stuff?
Candace Webb:  09:41
In the class I took, it was more like free verse poetry. And so you know, I don’t really have a foundation in you know, what is the Villanelle? What is Sistina? So, that was interesting to me. And I also felt like I really wanted to know why lines were broken up a certain way. And why you might put a period in the middle, and what effects those would have. And so I didn’t know if there were rules about that. But in the music of the line chapter, they basically say, yes, there are no rules, there are only effects. If you do this, you’ll get this effect, for example. So, if the sentence spans several lines, then you get kind of a momentum going. And then when it comes to a stop, it’s like a breaking of the tension, they were saying. So, I thought that was interesting. And just to have that in the back of your mind, when you’re exploring the writing of poetry, it’s kind of helpful. For me, that’s something I really wanted to know.
Jennifer Robinson:  10:35
I totally relate to that, the music of the line chapter that was so useful to think about things in this way. I think I read poetry differently now, after reading just that chapter even. And they talk about the different stresses on different words, and how that contributes to the rhythm of the line, or the poem, now it almost feels like a whole other language to me to start to learn, like how the rhythm of the words, how we receive that as a reader in a way that is beyond the content of the words, like, we have to learn that sort of deeper language of the poem. So, I really appreciated that chapter.
Candace Webb:  11:14
It sort of likens it to more like, and what they’re saying the music of the line, it’s like, you can read the words, but then there’s a melody underneath that almost pay attention to as well.
Rachel Thompson:  11:25
That’s why I always encourage, especially poets, to read their work aloud, because you can really get a better sense of that music in your own writing that way.
So, I mentioned the subtitle of the book has the word pleasures in it (plural, as well). And I’m wondering if you’ve thought about what are the pleasures of writing poetry? And did you find them in this book, as promised?
Jennifer Robinson:  11:49
I had so much fun writing so much bad poetry. That was wonderful. So, they’re little short chapters. And then at the end, there’s a bunch of prompts, but sort of by the time you get to the prompts, what they’ve said in the chapter has really made you feel energized and open and inspired, so that when you get to the prompts, you’re ready to do this writing and, and then it’s sort of fun and easy. That was my experience of it, for the most part. Something about the little chapters, and they give a little examples along the way, they were short, to the point kind of juicy and inspiring. And then you got to do these prompts. And so, I definitely felt like it was a lot of fun.
Candace Webb:  12:30
I would say so, I think those 20 minute exercises, I tried one in a U-Haul North of Damascus. It’s one about traveling, traveling to a place where you either love or hate. And I really was surprised how much I had to say and how much fun it was to say it about this road trip that we used to do in California that I always hated going through the desert. It’s so depressing to me. But like, I was surprised at how many things like I could describe in detail about that. But it was fun. Like it was a fun ride. And then you know, when the 20 minutes was up, I could have still kept going.
Rachel Thompson:  13:07
Yeah, that’s a really generative prompt, then for you. That’s great. I’m wondering if you can share some of the key things writers should know about this book before choosing to spend time with it. Maybe even starting to think about the audience which we all have to do about our own writing as well. But who would be good for who maybe would it not be good for?
Candace Webb:  13:27
I would say that it’s probably not great for someone who has an MFA in poetry. But it is great for anyone who’s just looking to get an idea about it. And also because it gives so many examples of such a wide range of poems, like Sharon Olds, or Gwendolyn Brooks, and all this stuff, I think that it’s really helpful just as a launching pad for exploring more. And anyone I think, who wants to enhance their writing at the line level, because poetry I think can really inform your writing of creative nonfiction and fiction as well.
Jennifer Robinson:  14:04
Absolutely agree, which is one of the reasons I’m really getting into poetry these days. Because I’ve been noticing a lot of poets, winning nonfiction contests that I’m like, what is this about? But it does, you know, it really adds to your ability as a writer, I think. So, I would agree with everything you said. And just add that also, another potential audience group for this book is anyone who feels a bit intimidated by poetry or maybe hasn’t really had the greatest experiences with it, but still wants to find some way in to this world of this particular art form. I think this is a great book for doing that.
Rachel Thompson:  14:45
I noticed too Jen, you’re referring to bad poetry and I’m wondering if this book helped to shift to think of it as like unfinished poetry maybe instead?
Jennifer Robinson:  14:53
You know what, by the time I got to the end of it, I think I was thinking of it that way. So, the 20 minutes writing prompts that I did was super fun. So, I did the one that I believe one. It’s very specific, you know, it tells you like write down six things you seriously believe in and three silly or outrageous things, six rules for yourself or as a person to as a poet, and then throw them all together and see what happens. And that was really fun. And I did that. And, yeah, what I have, as a result is unfinished. Now I see it that way. It’s like it’s not bad poetry, it just needs some more stirring some more mixing around. Well, we’ll see what happens to it.
Rachel Thompson:  15:32
The book has a writing life section, which I think is also maybe it’s something that is what makes it feel endearing to me. In particular, there’s a section on self-doubt in writer’s block. Although it was Meli, who’s our producer for this episode mentioned to me and reminded me that there’s the electronic age chapter in there, which does not hold up. But we do not expect the authors to be time travelers. So they didn’t know in 1997 what the electronic age would really look like. Or we would stop calling it that I guess. But from soft out they write every great and not so great writer has suffered bouts of feeling worthless, lazy, untalented, mediocre and boring. And it’s page 195 in the book, and I don’t know about you two, but I need to constantly hear this advice. I’m happy that it appears here. And in many of the Karen Craft Books, we’ve cracked in our book club. Is there anything that you found in that section that gave you know maybe some more self-belief in your writing or you just remarked up on?
Jennifer Robinson:  16:32
I love that Sylvia Plath quote, where she writes in her journal;
“Can a selfish, egocentric, jealous and unimaginative female write a damn thing worthwhile?”
And this is Sylvia Plath. It’s just “Thank you”. This is a shared common humanity that we all have this self-doubt that we work with and work through. And I really appreciated that and appreciate being reminded of that.
Candace Webb:  16:57
Yeah. And there’s another story in there about this writer that insists he’s no good or whatever. Whole paragraph he’s one this he’s one that but I’m no good. It’s heartening to know that other people feel that way for sure. They have the exercise at the end, where you can sort of respond to that negative voice by writing, free writing and stuff like that, which I think is often helpful. Because you can really get stuck in it.
Rachel Thompson:  17:23
It’s like heartening, and then also disheartening, because you’re like, well, there’s no level I can reach for that voice is going to stop, it’s just always going to be a part of the equation, unfortunately. But it helps to know that others are in that equation with you. Then they’ll turn to the craft section of the book. There are lots of lovely thoughts on images and simile and metaphor and the music of the line, which you’ve already mentioned. I guess maybe apart from that section, which we’ve talked about, are there any other sections that resonated with you more than some of the others and why?
Candace Webb:  17:56
I think for me, it was the meter rhyme and formed, because I don’t have any idea like people will say, oh, it’s I am big pentameter. And I’m like, I don’t know what that means at all. And so it was nice to sort of read through that and get a few definitions, and how people actually put emphasis on different words, and how you can use that to affect. So, for me, that was definitely another one.
Jennifer Robinson:  18:24
That one stood out to me too. And I really appreciated it. I think it helps me now read poetry differently within an enriched kind of way deeper than I had before I read that section. So, really grateful for that. I also like the section on writer’s block, I thought they said some really good things. And it was very gentle. You know, it was like, don’t push yourself. But if you are in this state where you’re feeling like you’re blocked and have nothing to say, the analogy they use is that you’re empty, and you need to fill up again. So, you know, go to an art gallery, go to a movie, experience life, get some enriching experiences, pay attention to what’s around you, fill up and then when you’re ready, you’ll have that story to draw on in your writing. I really liked everything that they said in that section.
And then they had some prompts like this one I love- they say if that fails, write about why you can’t write. I just love that. I think it was real key who had writer’s block. And then he figured out he said something about if you’re in prison, then you describe the bars. You know, that’s all you can do. I appreciate that.
Candace Webb:  19:32
He reminded me of Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.
Jennifer Robinson:  19:36
Oh, yeah.
Candace Webb:  19:37
Filling the Well, it’s what I thought of because I think it’s around the time when she published her book as well, which I thought was interesting.
Rachel Thompson:  19:45
I guess it’s like the writer’s doubt part that I’m saying, I need to hear that over and over again. And I’m glad that it’s a feature in a lot of craft books that we read. And then also this too, just as you’re saying it I’m thinking oh yeah, and even you know that idea I think kind of seeped into my bones the idea of oh, you need to feel that well, or, or like you said, go out and notice and experience things because it’s definitely become part of the advice that I give to other people. And then hearing you now, is like, oh, yeah, and I need to do that, too. So, it’s like,
“Can I give myself that advice as well.”
Thank you for sharing those. I think connecting that real key line with that notion is something that’s going to stick with me from this conversation. So, thank you for that, Jen.
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Is there any section that you didn’t resonate as much with or that you felt was skimmable I guess, something that you wanted to skip through?
Jennifer Robinson:  21:26
That section on voice I found strange. And you know, Rachel, and I know from listening to your podcast, that voice is something that editors will always say that they want a really distinct voice, but nobody can really tell you what that is. It’s just a hard thing to define. And so, you know, they give examples in that chapter, which is great. And I appreciate it. But it’s just a hard thing to talk about in general. Somehow that chapter, I don’t know, what did you think, Candace?
Candace Webb:  21:55
I thought it was interesting. I think this is the chapter that you mentioned, you thought it was pretty prescriptive, it stood out to you, because the rest of the book wasn’t like that. I can see what you mean by that. I kind of thought it was cool, though, that they had steps to find your voice. I know they’ve still a particular way to do that. But at least they had some exercises, I felt like exploring it. This simile and metaphor, I just kind of was like, okay, because I felt like I had a little bit of a handle on it. Whether I do or not, truly is the question. But I felt that way. I felt like I’d seen that.
Jennifer Robinson:  22:29
I noticed in my copy too this simile metaphor chapter, I have nothing underlined, which is very rare for this book. So yeah, similar experience with that.
Rachel Thompson:  22:41
My co-producer for this episode and our community facilitator Meli Walker is reminding me that our next book club pick is Voice First: A Writer’s Manifesto, by Sonia Huber, she writes about voices plural, which I think is really interesting to think about for writers already that has me interested in cracking that book, the idea that we maybe have more than one voice.
Jennifer Robinson:  23:02
And the word Manifesto.
Rachel Thompson:  23:06
I mean, the book is co-authored as well, too. So, there may be parts that we don’t know is written by one author or the other. You’re resonating with one author in particular, and we wouldn’t really be able to dissect that without talking to them.
We talked a bit about generative prompts. And they’re scattered throughout the book as well. But I’m wondering, and this is a big part of why I chose the book, because I do think the ones that get you writing and Jen, you and I had that shared experience where we picked it up because we were writing with other people. And it was something that was useful to get us writing and working toward a prompt together. And then we’ve done that in the community. We had poem, a date, poetry quest for two weeks, last month, and we used some of the prompts from that book for that quest. So, I’m just wondering, my question for you both is if you could name one of the prompts that was most generative or exciting to you. And if you could even let us know what page it’s on, and we could read the prompts to share with our listeners as well.
Candace Webb:  24:05
I actually really liked the acrostic. I don’t know if the acrostic came directly from the book. But I liked that one because I really like the idea of having the beginning of a word spelled out and then you just have something to start with. It’s like a seed. So, I felt like that was helpful, as well.
Jennifer Robinson:  24:26
I liked that chapter and especially the prompts, in the chapter labeled the shadow. I just find that so useful because the shadow is something as humans we try to repress and avoid and yet it often provides the juiciest, richest material for writing. And I just think it’s really important as a human to allow that material to be a part of our experience because it is anyway you know; I think it’s more dangerous when we repress it.
Rachel Thompson:  24:59
If you don’t mind me saying I know that you are also professionally working in the field of psychology or therapy. When you say that about the shadow, I mean, which I also love, but I’m like, ooh, that seems also like a professional interest. Speaking of interests.
Jennifer Robinson:  25:11
Absolutely. I really resonated with this chapter. It is a professional and yeah, I’m the kind of person who when someone wants to tell me their dream, I’m like, ooh, tell me everything.
Okay, here’s one that I really loved on page 62. What repels you the smell of garbage, sloppiness, people who never shut up, make a list of things you dislike intensely, choose one or more and try to transform them into something appealing or beautiful. And then below that we have taken a trait that you’re proud of and find the opposite trait within yourself. And it even gets into like, writing a poem in the voice of a murderer, makes the reader sympathetic to the murderer.
Candace Webb:  25:51
That’s heavy.
Rachel Thompson:  25:52
That’s some stuff.
I was searching through my book just to find it because they do mention the acrostic in it to Candace, because I couldn’t remember if they had an abecedarian or which I think is how you’re supposed to say that. I always want to say ABC Darian, but abecedarian and they definitely have acrostic, on page 149. And that’s when they’re just showing different forms of…
Candace Webb:  26:13
Yeah, oh, it’s number nine on page 150. So it’s an acrostic poem in which you spell something down the left hand side of the page, those letters then start each line of the poem. And then they give an example we like is Diane Wakowski’s Justice Is Reason Enough, and I’m not sure if that’s actually in the book. But then that’s something you can go and look at, if you’d wanted to.
Rachel Thompson:  26:36
One thing I do really love and I think poets that I admire do this is work with really formal prompts to force themselves to generate something. So I’m also a fan of the idea of okay, now you have to spell something on the left hand column of the page or have a certain meter or rhyme scheme. I’m less successful with that I find I’m definitely more of a free verse, writer. But there’s something cool about having that constraint that helps us generate, I think, especially for when we’re blocked, I think it’s good to just be like, okay, here are the rules today.
Candace Webb:  27:12
Yeah. Otherwise, it’s just if you’re already stuck, and everything’s wide open to you, then it’s paralyzing sometimes.
Rachel Thompson:  27:19
Jennifer Robinson:  27:20
Sometimes having that structure can allow difficult material to be processed. Because there was almost a container for it. It just sort of can make really difficult stuff feel more manageable. I think they talked about that at some point, too, in the book. That’s an added bonus, I think.
Candace Webb:  27:38
Rachel Thompson:  27:39
When you say that, too. It’s making me think of the lyric essay as well to which is not poetry. But also there are more forms coming out of that, like the Hermit crab essay is one, in particular, that was to be the shell that protects the writer and I tried to extend that metaphor in my mind, I extend that metaphor to like, what’s the home for this work? And something that seems very formal and in control can help you write about something that feels messy and out of control, I find.
Rachel Thompson:  28:06
How did this book affect your writing life in a positive way? Or did it? what actually got me writing poetry? So, I’m thrilled about that. That’s amazing, I would not have done that without this book, I feel more comfortable with poetry, more engaged with it, more interested in writing it, just more confident.
Candace Webb:  28:26
I agree. I think it’s really helpful just reading all the poems in this book. And then I feel like I can go and understand other poetry better because it was always for me, it was like, I can’t read poetry, I’m not going to understand it. It’s impossible, but I just don’t feel that way anymore. I feel, as you said, competent about writing and reading.
Rachel Thompson:  28:46
One of my longtime secret goals is to convert every writer into a poet as well. So, I’m very thrilled about that. Because I do think there is something that feels like a secret club for people. And there’s certainly genres like sub genres of poetry and formal stuff that still intimidates me. And certain poets who have those super sharp minds that are kind of scary, sharp, but I do think there is no like secret handshake, really, that idea of interest to me is just always the main criteria, and everything else is like, just extra. I feel like we’ve answered everything else on my list of questions.
There are things happening in the chat, because we are here live with our writing community. We have a couple of people here anyway, who are also joining us and they’re mentioning things. So, what I wanted to do Meli is just have you talk about whether you want a chicken sandwich and what you liked about that part of it. So, we’ll just sort of make this a bit more of an open discussion with those of us who are here.
Meli Walker:  29:43
I was going to read just the introduction to the 20 minute prompts section, just because I like the opening paragraph and it kind of picks up on what you were saying about how helpful prompts can be. And I noticed that Alyssa did say in the chat that prompts had been really helpful. Alyssa says Writerly Love and other workshops have helped me fall in love with prompts. It’s so helpful when I don’t know where to start. So the section from the book, as I mentioned, the first paragraph introducing the 20 minute writing prompts, it starts with, can you write a poem in 20 minutes, we seriously doubt it. What you can do though, is get one started, having a time limit can keep you focused on the task at hand, and help you push past the urge to get up from your desk and clean up the cat box or call your best friend.
So, I just like the like, frankness of that. And like you were saying, thinking of it as bad poetry just to have a sense of humor and a sense of lightness and irreverence about it. And then how you moved into thinking of it as unfinished poetry or poetry and process like, that’s a great way to put it. So, one of the prompts in there is, do you want a chicken sandwich? And it says, what’s your most acutely embarrassing moment- we wonder if you can talk this one described by Norman Stock and his bizarrely wonderful book, Buying Breakfast by Kamikaze Pilot, I won’t read it. But the poem is there for you to read. And then after you’ve read the poem, which is fairly short, the prompt is write a poem describing in excruciating detail a moment of embarrassment, such incidents are often funny after the fact, of course, write a C and convey the humor in your situation. So, that one I really liked.
And then there’s American burying beetle, for this exercise, you’ll first need to do a bit of research, pick an animal that intrigues you, or even one that repels you. Find out how it lives, mates, eats, etc., you might get your information from a book on animals. This is where we see 1992 coming through the encyclopedia and nature show on television or the science pages of the newspaper. So those prompts of where to look is quite cute, right? Because we don’t think that way anymore, we would just go on with a PDR, do a Google. And I would say that would be fun to like, what are the first things that come up about an animal compared to after you spend 10 minutes researching, and that could be a fun way to think about the sort of like surface knowing of an animal and the non-surface and a more deeper understanding of its biology. But anyways, I’ll stop reading from the prompt. But that’s an idea of what kind of prompts they offer. But then, as you say, you’ve both mentioned Candace, and Jennifer, about all the prompts throughout the book. And there’s just so much poetry in here. And I love what you’re saying about feeling more confident about reading poetry, too, because that’s part of the noticing. And part of the inspiration is to look at what other people are noticing, and then notice those reactions in yourself and what that makes you notice. So, it’s a really lovely continuation that goes on.
Rachel Thompson:  32:47
I think, Jen, you and I had an interaction a while back, where I said, one of my interests is interest that relates to like, I really love seeing what people are interested in, I think of that film adaptation, where Nicolas Cage played twins and the sort of really wild thing that the whole thing was, he was interested in this guy who was interested in orchids, and I really related to that guy that was interested in the interest. And how is like fascinating it was that person had this really interesting interest. So I think that’s also maybe what I love about poetry, too, because that’s what it’s all about is what is this person really interested in taking us into this moment of experience, this intense close up view, or far away view or whatever perspective that they’re taking.
Candace Webb:  33:34
I feel like it’ll go down into something you’re interested in, just like, go to the bottom of the hole or whatever. And poetry kind of allows you to do that, I think in a smaller space.
Jennifer Robinson:  33:46
I love that. Yeah, go to the bottom of the hole. And then, you know, see what you can pull out on the way back up.
Rachel Thompson:  33:50
I just want to thank you both, because you’ve been such great readers for this month. And thanks for joining me on the podcast too with this new thing that we’re trying with a very old book, which is also really interesting to be like, I mean, it would be interesting for the authors maybe to find the people are talking about their books many years later as well, although maybe not so surprising, because it is really an interesting book. And thanks, Alyssa, yeah, for being here as well. Are there any final thoughts or things that we missed that we wanted to share about the book?
Candace Webb:  34:26
I think I guess one question I have for the authors because we will not be able to ask them is like I’m surprised it hasn’t been updated. Often there’ll be editions of these books. So, I thought that was interesting. Maybe they just lost interest.
Rachel Thompson:  34:40
Yeah, and I’m not as familiar with the second author Dorianne Laux. I did notice Kim Addonizio, you know still writing books and I think was up for an award recently, is where I saw her name go by. But that is interesting. Why has that book not been updated and that embarrassing chapter on the electronic age removed?
The Writerly Love community is my warm and supportive membership community for creative writers to get together, learn everything from writing craft like we do by reading books like this and having guests and other discussions and getting published to building a platform and sustaining yourself as a writer. If you’re ready to learn and grow, I’d love to have you join us.
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So, that was Jennifer Robinson and Candace Webb talking about The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.
As I mentioned in the episode, I love the interest that poets bring to the world. And I love the interest and attention our readers in the community, and our two lead readers Jen and Candace brought to the conversation we had over two months in our community chat and culminating in this call.
You may have noticed we mentioned our next book read—we have already started reading Voice First by Sonia Huber. We invite you, dear listeners, to join us and read this book. The link to find it is in the show notes and we’ll have another conversation episode in a little over a month to discuss the book, so start reading now and get ready to join the conversation through the podcast episode. Or you can join and become a member and join our sustained ongoing conversation. And you can learn more and sign up at I’ll give a fuller update of our expanded book club plans that include you, dear listeners, in our upcoming state of the community episode, episode 70.
This is Episode 68, which is where you’ll find all the show notes and everything is up at
The Write, Publish, and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson. You can learn more about the work I do to help writers, write, publish, and shine at When you’re there, sign up for my Writerly Love letters, sent every week and filled with support for your writing practice.⁠
If this episode encouraged you to read the book or get more confident about reading and writing poetry I would love to hear all about it. You can email me at
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Thank you for listening—I encourage you to follow your interests and write luminously!
Here is some notes about where my guests spoke to me from;
Candace Webb:  37:40
I am Candace Webb and I am on the land traditional territories of the Massachusetts people.
Jennifer Robinson:  37:47
I’m Jennifer Robinson and I am here on treaty one territory which is the traditional land of the Anishinaabeg Cree, Oji-Cree, Dene, Dakota and the Metis nation.
Meli Walker:  38:01
This is Meli Walker recording from unceded W̱SÁNEĆ (wah-SAY—netch) territories.
Rachel Thompson:  38:05
And I am a guest in the South Sinai, Egypt, on lands historically and presently occupied by the el Muzzina Bedouin.

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