English’s Lindsay Turner offers advice on writing poetry

It’s National Poetry Month so we asked English’s Lindsay Turner what advice she gives to aspiring poets. Read what she told us.

“The best—I think maybe the only—way to start writing poetry is to read poetry! And the best place for that is in a book. Go to the Kelvin Smith Library, ask the librarian where the poetry is, browse around and take home a stack.

Visit some of our fantastic local bookstores, such as Mac’s Backs on Coventry or Clevo Books downtown, which specializes in literature in translation. Ask the booksellers what they like. An anthology like The Norton Anthology of Poetry can be good to have on hand: leaf through, see what leaps out at you, read more of that poet’s work. Read everything that poet’s ever written and then read the poets who were important to that writer and then read the contemporary poets who say they also like that poet. 

Read those whose backgrounds resemble yours and poets whose stories are far from your own. Ask your friends what they’re reading. Or come to my office (Guilford House, room 318) and I will share with you what I’m reading and provide you with a list of names.

The Poetry Foundation website is also a good place to discover new voices or find older ones. You have to trust that your poetic voice will flourish when you fill your head with the voices of other poets. Read constantly, voraciously, and with an open mind and heart.”

Lindsay Turner is an assistant professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. She is a highly-regarded author and her translations have been acclaimed by The New Yorker and The New York Times amongst others. Her research and teaching interests include creative writing, poetry across periods, literary translation and translation theory, contemporary literature, global cinema and gender studies. You can reach Dr. Turner via email or phone, 216.368.2355.