How to Read a Poem
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Lucid, entertaining and full of insight, How To Read A Poem is designed to banish the intimidation that too often attends the subject of poetry, and in doing so to bring it into the personal possession of the students and the general reader.
- Offers a detailed examination of poetic form and its relation to content.
- Takes a wide range of poems from the Renaissance to the present day and submits them to brilliantly illuminating closes analysis.
- Discusses the work of major poets, including John Milton, Alexander Pope, John Keats, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost, W.H.Auden, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, and many more.
- Includes a helpful glossary of poetic terms.
empirical truth means that it still cannot simply be checked off against it. Poetry is language trying to signify in the absence of material cues and constraints. So a poem is the kind of writing which can work perfectly well in the absence of a reader or addressee. Not in the absence of any addressee (there are no unread poems), but in the absence of a specific one, like one’s plumber or sexual partner. A poet may write verses especially for a specific reader, such as Catherine the Great or
12/05/2006 12:32PM Page 67 In Pursuit of Form examining Jane Austen’s techniques of characterisation is a question of form (or ‘how?’). Some may find these fine distinctions scholastic, but then some find any fine distinctions scholastic. Yet form and content are inseparable in this sense – that literary criticism typically involves grasping what is said in terms of how it is said. Or, to put it slightly more technically, grasping the semantic (meaning) in terms of the non-semantic (sound,
lambasting here. Its clinching rhymes lend it an air of logic and precision, and the drastic economy of the form, distilling so much information in so brief a compass, demands the virtues of wit, exactness and lucidity. Each couplet forms a little enclosed world of relations and affinities, and as such becomes a microcosm of an orderly cosmos. The form of the poem itself, then, offers some resistance to the tedious longwindedness of those it is sending up. 4.4 Poetry and Performance This kind
can only call the poem’s unconscious. Eliot’s poems are full of ghosts, even though his character Gerontion denies that he has any. Poetry sets up rhythms and resonances which in Eliot’s view penetrate far beneath the intellect, infiltrating the visceral depths of the body and its secret psychical domains. It throws us the odd fragment of meaning, but only to keep us distracted while it goes to work upon us in stealthier, more devious ways. The celebrated opening image of ‘The Love-Song of J.
that here, even if the phrase ‘are themselves as stone’ hints at it almost too heavily. Nobody, not even Shakespeare, has to say everything at once. 5.8 Punctuation One of the most neglected formal techniques is punctuation. It is puzzling, for example, why there should be an exclamation mark after the lines from Eliot’s ‘Whispers of Immortality’ which read: ‘Daffodil bulbs instead of balls / Stared from the sockets of the eyes!’ Exclamation marks are clumsy markers of emotion for such a