The Straight Line

Writing on Poetry and Poets
Ron Padgett
A lively and diverse collection of prose by an esteemed poet-teacher


The Straight Line brings together memoir, informal talks, autobiographical essays, unconventional book reviews, instructional pieces, imaginative speculations on the nature of reading, and poems about writing. What distinguishes these pieces is Ron Padgett's refreshing sense of humor and the changing, unexpected angles on his point of view. He pokes fun at the concept of "finding one's poetic voice," has a dream conversation with a Russian poet, talks to his typewriter, parodies Robert Frost, deconstructs the haiku, finds weird word lists in the dictionary, and extols the pleasures of mistakes in writing.

But along with the playful wit comes Padgett's serious fascination with how words work. Essays discuss such subjects as the otherness of languages; French poets and their relationship to Cubist painters; an afternoon with the poet Edwin Denby; a tribute to Ted Berrigan; twentieth-century modernism; and suggestions for using the computer to write poetry.

The book concludes with pieces that Padgett has written during his thirty years as a teacher of poetry. Essays explore the unexpected relationships between poetry and dance; the practical value of using "gimmicks" to inspire poetry writing; and some radical and entertaining ideas for innovative ways to read creatively.

Ron Padgett is Publications Director, Teachers and Writers Collaborative. His books include Albanian Diary, Creative Reading, and Old Faithful: 18 Writers Present Their Favorite Writing Assignments.

Praise / Awards

  • " The Straight Line will have you laughing all the way to enlightenment. . . Pedagogical in the friendliest of ways, like an invitation to sit, think, chuckle and sip some joy juice while you realize the most wonderful things about writing. . . . A brilliant writer whose compassion fare outshines his sense of self-importance. This is perhaps the most generous, most entertaining tour that anyone will ever offer through the poetry landscape, with a guide who keeps handing out one after another pair of insight-binoculars. . ."
    ---George Tysh, Metrotimes, December 2001
  • "A playful but fascinating investigation. . ."
    ---Gregory Farnum, Rain Taxi, Fall 2001

Product Details

  • 5-3/8 x 8.
  • 184pp.
  • 5 drawings.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09726-5

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  • $79.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06726-8

Add to Cart
  • $19.95 U.S.