... wry, canny ... will delight Bay Area readers, as it’s set here — San Francisco, Marin, Santa Rosa — with superb authority and wit. But the novel may most strike home for poets and writers everywhere as it calmly, systematically depicts their worlds — and, let’s say, field behavior — unretouched ... Descriptions of these characters alone may be worth the book’s price ... Thompson’s skills make us comfortable at once — and she is often very funny ... delivers both an old-fashioned picaresque and real suspense as Carla wends her way through acolytes, wannabes, power struggles and poetry (much of which, to Thompson’s great credit, proves quite fine). Earned wisdom glints from these pages ... But the novel’s supreme glory is its sparklingly accurate chronicling of goings-on at a writers’ conference near Placerville ... Thompson inhabits the mind of an insecure, reading-challenged 21-year-old wonderfully well ... Let this delectable story, which steadily grows taut and exciting, channel its author’s wickedly seasoned observations of 'po-biz.' The novel rewards: as a tribute to the soul-saving value of art, a cri de coeur for women striving to make authentic lives, and a pipeline of guidance from the elders to the emerging. The Poet’s House offers many rooms, infinitely worth the tour.
... a closely observed, droll, coming-of-age story about an insecure young woman drawn into a shimmering clique of poets; it's also a wise story about the corrosive power of shame and the primal fear of sounding stupid, unsophisticated and sentimental ... Thompson is such a nuanced writer that she avoids 'either/or' categories. Like most people, the larger-than-life Viridian is a lot of things at once: a prima donna, for sure, and a bit of a manipulator, but also a sincere mentor. Writing through Carla's perspective gives the alert Thompson an opportunity to nail the social class microaggressions and misunderstandings that pop up again and again in conversations with Viridian's coterie, who literally speak a different language ... As absorbing as that plot is, however, it's Thompson's charged depiction of Carla's unfocused yearning to be more that powers this story and makes it so emotionally resonant. The Poet's House, as I said, is a keeper.
... partakes of the charm, if not the sting, of the fairy tales the author updated in her 2014 book of stories, The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told ... is as much about women’s power in the world, poetic or otherwise, as it is about the power of poetry. And in the novel the power of poetry speaks for itself, in offhand and formal quotes from Shakespeare, the Bible, Byron and Yeats, among others, and in the reading and reciting of some quite wonderful poems with which Thompson supplies her 'pew-ets,' as Aaron affectionately refers to them ... There’s no doubting and no escaping the joyful, hopeful spirit that inhabits The Poet’s House — the spirit of poetry that by the end of this charming novel Carla so clearly embodies — and the irrepressible Jean Thompson so smartly imparts.