Reading poetry

Poetry reading is a topic about which there is always something more that can usefully be said. This book explores key aspects of poetry by discussing poems which are quoted in full and then treated in a sustained way. It considers a broad range of poetry, using examples taken from the Tudor period to the twenty-first century. Some are very traditional, and some are very avant-garde, and most are somewhere in between, so it is unusually broad and eclectic in its generic range. The book invites readers to cultivate generic generosity, and entertain a willingness to be astonished by the bizarre practices poets sometimes indulge in, in the privacy of their garrets, and among consenting adults. The emphasis is on meanings rather than words, looking beyond technical devices like alliteration and assonance so that poems are understood as dynamic structures creating specific ends and effects. The three sections cover progressively expanding areas. The first deals with such basics as imagery, diction and metre; the second concerns broader matters, such as poetry and context, and the reading of sequences of poems. The third section looks at 'theorised' readings and the 'textual genesis' of poems from manuscript to print. By adopting a smallish personal 'stable' of writers whose work is followed in this long-term way, a poetry reader can develop the kind of intimacy with authors that brings a sense of confidence and purpose.

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