On Writing a Guide to Poetry (Part II)

By | December 15, 2015

Guest Post by Mark Yakich

What is one to think of the following picture?


Is it a bit shocking? A bit adorable? Is it shockingly adorable? Whatever it is, it is the image I had initially envisioned for my book’s cover. As someone who’s been interested in design and art for a long time, I’d even made mock-up:


I’d found the image of the dead baby deer by chance on Flickr, and felt immediately that it captured a certain feeling that I have about poetrythat beauty is sometimes best displayed in the ostensibly sorrowful or awful. It’s an overly sentimental notion, perhaps, and one I associate with a famous line from Rilke’s Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies): Denn das Schöne ist nichts / als des Schrecklichen Anfang… (For beauty is nothing / but the beginning of a terror…).

As my book’s title employs the words “survivor” and “guide,” the image also brought forth the idea of the book as being somehow helpful when entering dark woods. I liked that notion both literallyone might take the book on a hike or a camping tripand figuratively, in the sense of reading and writing a poem as an adventure into an unknown territory.

Apparently, however, the art director or designer had other ideas, most of them involving the vanishing point of a road or highway with something askew:




In the end, I am pleased with the cover we finally settled on:


And as an object, the book itself is lovely. The Rilkean aspect of the cover, for me, does not reside in the red-orange emergency cones. Rather, it’s what those cones point to: the word “poetry” and the misty white space intimating oblivionan unknown beyond both dark woods and dark words.


PoetryMark Yakich is Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, USA, Editor of New Orleans Review, and a poet and novelist. He is the author of Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (2004), The Making of Collateral Beauty (2006), and The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (2008). His latest book, Poetry: A Survivor's Guide, is now available from Bloomsbury.

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