The Poetry Gymnasium

110 Proven Exercises to Shape Your Best Verse, 2d ed.


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About the Book

This expanded edition adds sixteen new exercises designed to inspire creativity and help poets hone their skills. Each exercise includes a clearly-stated learning objective, historical background matter on the particular subgenre being explored, and an example written by undergraduates at Western Kentucky University. The text also analyzes work by leading American poets including Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel and Dean Young. The book’s five chapters correspond with the five canons of classical rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Tom C. Hunley is a professor in the MFA/BA creative writing programs at Western Kentucky University. His work has appeared in many literary periodicals, such as TriQuarterly, Five Points, North American Review and New York Quarterly. He is the author of several poetry collections and lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Bibliographic Details

Tom C. Hunley

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 310
Bibliographic Info: 3 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7582-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3741-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
I. Invention Exercises 5
II. Arrangement Exercises 90
III. Style Exercises 167
IV. Memory Exercises 245
V. Delivery Exercises 266
Copyright Acknowledgments 297
Index 299

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “If writing poetry is exercise–and it is, physically and emotionally, as callisthenic as running, jumping, breathing–then we have here in Hunley’s The Poetry Gymnasium our barbell, our track, our ever-present coach goading us on. This book should be in every writing classroom: inventive, necessary, vital for both student and professor, Hunley’s book is a staple in every workshop I teach.”—Gary McDowell, Belmont University, author of Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None
  • The Poetry Gymnasium is the complete workout! While it can help poets create new work in a variety of aesthetics and modes–New Formalism and Language poetry, Imagism and Ultra-Talk–anyone who trains with the The Poetry Gymnasium certainly will make poems that are beautiful, powerful, and energetic.”—Michael Theune, Illinois Wesleyan University
  • “This new edition features more exercises to jump-start the muse, and more fantastic, enlightening models by contemporary writers to show us the many ways a poem begins, searches, makes and arranges its music and comes to life. The Poetry Gymnasium is a must-have for students and teachers alike. It’s lightning in a bottle.”—Matthew Guenette, author of Vasectomania
  • “Provides nearly one hundred practice lessons for improving all aspects of poetry and poetic prose”—Reference & Research Book News
  • “This is the book that should be in every workshop.”—Richard Jackson, University of Tennessee–Chattanooga, author of Resonance and Unauthorized Autobiography
  • “If you’re a writing teacher, you’ll find yourself itching to use the exercises. If you’re a student reading The Poetry Gymnasium, you’ll be lamenting, ‘Man, why wasn’t I in that class?’ Hunley makes teaching one continuous act of invention for both the student and the instructor.”—Alexandria Peary, Salem State University
  • “Finally, there’s a text that merges theory and practicality and helps students build, strengthen, and tone their poetry muscles.”—Emari DiGiorgio, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey