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THE POET’S DICTIONARY A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices <i> by William Packard (Harper & Row: $19.95; 221 pp.) </i>

No stuffy reference manual, “The Poet’s Dictionary” is the sort of book a poet could flip through for inspiration in a moment of writer’s block. William Packard teaches poetry and is founding editor of the New York Quarterly, a journal devoted to the craft of poetry. There is more here than the usual raft of esoteric literary terms dryly defined. Packard writes as a craftsman organizing his toolshed, picking up each tool, turning it over in his hands and dreaming of the jobs it can do. Entries are illustrated with examples from the classics, from Homer and Sappho to Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. An appendix describes how to submit poetry for publication, with sensible, working-poet’s advice such as: “If you do decide to include a (cover) letter, be sure it is brief and courteous and sane.”


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