05 Apr

Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio

Posted in Book Reviews, Literature, Poetry, Writing Exercises

I don’t care if you like poetry or not; if you’re a writer, you must read this book. I can tell what you’re thinking just from looking at the title. “This must be one of those warm-and-fuzzy books,” you say. I say sure, it’s like a warm cup of tea you snuggle up with on a snowy day, but we’re talking some serious tea here. Something super-caffeinated, like mate herb. This isn’t just a “get in touch with your inner-artist-child” sort of book. This book means business.

Ordinary Genius is a combination of analysis and craft. Unlike most books about writing, where you have to work your way in small chunks and do each exercise, you could read this book through to the end as though it were a novel.

Addonizio’s approach has changed how I look at poetry. I used to have a strong distaste for poetry. I think the reason was that while good poetry reverberates in the soul, bad poetry is just atrocious.

After all, many people think
if you stick a few line breaks into
prose, it turns into poetry
like magic.

At the same time, though, I have always had a tremendous respect for anyone who attempts this genre, since I find it so challenging. This book breaks poetry down to the building blocks, helping me understand what makes one poem sing and another fall flat. Addonizio gives micro-assignments that serve almost more like meditations than poetry exercises. This book is about doing an honest day’s writing, about doing the work.

At the same time, though, Addonizio doesn’t guilt her readers into writing (as some writing books tend to do). She doesn’t give word minimums or time requirements. The book is approachable. Friendly. It makes you want to wake up and write every day without telling you that you must.

In the end, Ordinary Genius has opened my eyes to the gracefulness of language,the beauty of gesture. Thanks to this little book, I have fallen in love with language all over again.

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